As February comes to a close, for many so does attention to Black History. EJI believes a single month’s exploration of the history of racial inequality in America is insufficient and that the entire nation must commit to a new era of truth-telling about our past.
Too little is understood about the legacy of slavery, the racial terrorism that shaped this country for nearly a century following the Civil War, and the residue created by decades of racist laws that restricted everything from romance to playing sports.
Our criminal legal system is compromised by presumptions of dangerousness and guilt that are still assigned to Black and brown people in America with tragic results. From police violence to wrongful convictions and excessive and disproportionate sentencing, there must be a reckoning that extends beyond one month of Black History.
It is important that we acknowledge and celebrate Black achievement and it is laudable that many companies and institutions have elevated attention to the accomplishments of Black people and the continuing challenges we face during the last month.
At the Equal Justice Initiative, we reflect daily on the fact that we stand on the shoulders of a generation of people who did so much more with so much less. It’s impossible to live and work in Montgomery, Alabama, without appreciating and acknowledging the great struggle of our predecessors that gave rise to the founding of our organization.
To understand the struggle for equal justice in America, it has taken the genius of artists and musicians like the great Mahalia Jackson, celebrated in this new video of a conversation between EJI Director Bryan Stevenson and legendary jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. It takes the activism, leadership, perseverance, and courage of the thousands of Black Montgomery residents who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott to make the work of EJI possible in this community.
For the generations of enslaved people who endured the hardship of bondage, for the millions of African Americans who survived decades of lynching and terror violence, for all who endured the humiliation of Jim Crow and racial segregation, EJI celebrates the tenacity and commitment of Black people in America who still strive for freedom this Black History Month.
More importantly, we commit to meeting the continuing challenges created by mass incarceration, police violence, and the multiple ways in which racial preference and white supremacy continue to compromise the quest for true justice.
We thank all of you who have supported our work and stand with us as the month ends and the struggle continues.