History can be inspiring, epic and almost surreal in its scale. History can also be boring and dusty…and it can be painful and sobering as well. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opens today in Montgomery, AL remembering the thousands of victims of lynchings.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
Visit this space. This memorial not only has significance on a regional level but on a national and worldwide level as well. The six-acre site overlooks the Alabama State Capital. Inside is a memorial to the thousands of mostly black people who were lynched as victims of a decades-long racial terror campaign.
“We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it,” Equal Justice Initiative Director Bryan Stevenson said in a news release.
There are 800 weathered steel columns hanging from the ceiling, each one inscribed with the name of an American county. Under the county name is a list of 4,400 Americans who were lynched in this country, sometimes the victim is simply identified as “unknown.”
“The columns meet you first at eye level, like the headstones that lynching victims were rarely given. But as you walk, the floor steadily descends; by the end, the columns are all dangling above, leaving you in the position of the callous spectators in old photographs of public lynchings.” Campbell Robertson. The New York Times.
“The lynching era left thousands dead; it significantly marginalized black people in the country’s political, economic, and social systems; and it fueled a massive migration of black refugees out of the South, permanently reshaping the demographics of America.” www.EJI.org
If you are a student of history or a proud southerner who is excited about our future and the amazing strides that continue every single day in this south, consider a visit to this important memorial. If you are concerned that those strides and changes are like taking one step forward and then two or even twenty steps back, go see this memorial.
“History is a vast early warning system.” ~Norman Cousins