Starting this week, visitors can experience the National Memorial for Peace and Justice after dark. The uniquely compelling nighttime experience is available Wednesday through Friday from 9 to 11 pm.
Set on a six-acre site in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, the National Memorial is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
The memorial uses sculpture, art, and design to create a sober, meaningful site where people can gather and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality. It includes a memorial square with 800 six-foot monuments to symbolize thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the counties and states where this terrorism took place.
“The memorial has recently been well lit to provide a stunning and sobering view of the monuments and sculptures,” Deputy Director of Museum and Memorial Operations Tera DuVernay said.
It is an exceptionally powerful space to experience at night. “Ever since we opened, we knew there was something special about being in this space at night,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “There’s something about the stillness of the night, there’s something about the quiet, that allows you to really engage with what happened during this terrible time in American history.”
“I just think there’s something about the weight of this history and tragedy of this whole era that’s particularly poignant when you experience it at night,” he told al.com. “So much of this violence was done under darkness.”
Complimentary finger flashlights will be provided to night visitors to help guide them through the memorial. Tickets are required for both day and nighttime visitors, but tickets are currently free of charge.
“The sculptures really have a different power when you see them sort of in shadow,” Mr. Stevenson said. “We give people the finger lights because that just means you just to have kind of discover things. So when you come here, you can read the names. So that way you can kind of explore a little bit more. It’s a little bit more of a journey, a discovery, than in the daytime. And we think that’s an important part of how this should work.”
More than 750,000 people have visited the National Memorial and the Legacy Museum since the two sites opened in April 2018. The Legacy Museum is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.