The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened near the Alabama state capitol, providing the country with its first lynching museum, and an opportunity to react to decades of racial terror.
Years of work by Bryan Stevenson and a small group of lawyers has uncovered nearly 4,400 lynchings, an emotionally charged body of work assembled for museum-goers.
For the memorial’s opening, the Montgomery Advisor listed the names of 300 victims, followed by Our shame: the sins of our past laid bare for all to see.
Then, the simple words in the first line of the story:
We were wrong.
Take a look at the newspaper article, reported by CNN here.
In his work for the project as well as his representation of clients, Stevenson has written about “just mercy,” the belief that those who have committed serious wrongs should be allowed a chance at redemption. He believes it is true even for the white America whose brutality is chronicled by the memorial. But the history has to be acknowledged and its destructive legacy faced, he explains.
“Nobody is required to learn about slavery. Nobody’s required to learn about lynching. You’re not required to think about segregation. And in fact, you’re encouraged to not do those things.”
A sixteen minute walk from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is The Legacy Museum, which provides evidence that the slavery system did not end but rather it evolved: from slavery to lynching, and then to Jim Crow segregation, and then to mass incarceration.
The museum ends with a voter registration station, information on volunteer opportunities and suggestions for educators on how to talk to students.
Click here to read the NY Times article.