The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens today on a 6-acre site overlooking the Alabama state capital, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. The memorial seeks to honor the victims of lynchings in the United States, and to prevent the memory of those crimes from being forgotten.
In opening the new memorial, and an accompanying Legacy Museum tracking the evolution from slavery to mass incarceration, Stevenson pointed to why Montgomery was such a fitting home.
What's the background of the memorial?And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation's least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decadeslong campaign of racist terror. Eight hundred steel columns hanging from the roof of the memorial represent counties across the country where lynchings occurred.
The museum will feature statues marking each of the countless lynchings around the nation and have jars of soil with the names of each known victim.
In a press preview on Monday, Bryan Stevenson, EJI founder and executive director, drew parallels to Holocaust memorials in Germany, Stevenson discussed the importance of engaging with a true history, and signaling to the world "never again". Short summaries of the horrors that these people had to endure, some of them incredibly graphic.
The Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative created and organized the museum and memorial.
Stevenson, whose great-grandparents were slaves in Virginia, has written about "just mercy", the belief that those who have committed serious wrongs should be allowed a chance at redemption.
Why does Mr. Stevenson say that people do not want to admit wrongdoing in America, and what is his goal for the country? It was equally sobering to me that this public outrage wasn't about the obvious suffering of black Americans hanging from trees, bridges, and poles, memorialized in postcards hateful people mailed to brag of their attendance.