Memorial to Lynching Victims Opens in Alabama

Apr 29, 2018, 14:00
Memorial to Lynching Victims Opens in Alabama

A new memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, seeks to honor the victims of lynchings in the United States, and to prevent the memory of those crimes from being forgotten.

It is finally here, the grand opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice along with the Legacy Museum. A stunning - and sobering - six-acre park overlooking the city, the project spearhead by the Equal Justice Initiative is the first memorial in the country dedicated to the stories of more than 4,400 documented lynching victims.

Along the walls the harrowing stories of some victims are detailed. The most famous is Emmitt Till, who was lynched in Alabama in 1955 after supposedly catcalling a white woman.

Another reads: "Caleb Gadly, hanged in Kentucky in 1894 for walking behind the wife of his white employer".

"And I don't think we've actually done a very good job of acknowledging the pain and agony, the suffering, the humiliation, the complete denial of humanity that slavery created for black people on this continent".

Why does Mr. Stevenson say that people do not want to admit wrongdoing in America, and what is his goal for the country?

People do not want to admit wrongdoing in the U.S., Stevenson said, because they expect only punishment. By 1850, there were more slaves sold in Montgomery than in New Orleans. The organization has documented over 4000 lynchings from 1877 to 1950.

The museum ends with a nod toward the future.

The memorial aims to educate for a more informed dialogue and includes a section with material on volunteer opportunities and a voter registration booth. Given what has come before, it seems a jarring expression of confidence in the possibility of change.

Among the accounts given at the museum is that of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 28 years on Alabama's death row after being wrongly convicted of two murders by an all-white jury.

A grassy hillock rises in the middle of the memorial.

There has also been a growing controversy over monuments to generals and leaders of the 1861-1865 Confederacy which represented slave-owning states. It is a striking view. "What are you going to do?"

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