The nation’s first memorial to the victims of racially-motivated lynchings opens tomorrow, April 26, in Montgomery, Alabama. The project is the result of nearly a decade of work by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a Montgomery-based nonprofit that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners, in collaboration with Boston-based MASS Design Group.
In 2010, EJI began investigating the thousands of murders that have taken place in the American South. The group’s research led to a 2015 report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, which documented more than 4,400 lynchings across 12 states. The group then set about to memorialize the victims, visiting the sites of hundreds of these death and planning to build a museum and memorial on a six-acre site in Alabama’s capital city.
Hanging from the roof of a square pavilion, 800 six-foot “monuments” of weathered steel represent each county in the United States where lynchings took place. In the surrounding park, an identical set of monuments stand, ready to be claimed and installed in each of the counties named. “The national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror [by relocating their monuments] and which have not,” the group said in a statement.
“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” said Bryan Stevenson, director of EJI. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”
Tomorrow’s opening will include a ceremony, educational panels, and performances.