Slavery and lynching museum, memorial put Montgomery in spotlight

Slavery and lynching museum, memorial put Montgomery in spotlight
(Source: Equal Justice Initiative)
(Source: Equal Justice Initiative)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The national spotlight is on Montgomery as a national museum and memorial are in the works to honor lynching victims and allow visitors to confront the true history of slavery and racial terrorism.

The Equal Justice Initiative is leading the charge on the $20 million project that is already the topic of national news outlets and publications.

Confronting the country's painful history of slavery and racial injustice is the catalyst for two major projects in the works in Montgomery.

The Equal Justice Initiative is raising $20 million for the museum, "From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration" and a "Memorial for Peace and Justice" near the Federal Courthouse.

"We have done a very poor job, largely because it is a very painful part of history to uncover," explained Kiara Boone, Deputy Program Director for the EJI. "But we don't think we should shy away from that discomfort and that pain. We think there is real power in talking honestly about that history and being truthful about it."

The museum will be housed inside the Equal Justice Initiative with an entrance on Coosa Street, the same building used to house slaves before they were sold downtown.

"We really do believe that to get to healing, we have to tell the truth about this history," Boone said.

The museum is under construction, but a collection of soil samples from each of the lynching sites in Alabama stops most in their tracks.

"We think these tools are critical to begin the conversation. We see the museum as a way to continue that effort," Boone said.

Montgomery is surrounded by historical markers and multiple historical sites for the Confederate Army and the Civil War. Boone said the museum and memorial will offer a new narrative to local history.

"It's a counter-narrative, a comprehensive narrative to go deeper into understanding what these memorials and markers mean," Boone said.

An empty field on Holcomb Street will be a focal point to illustrate more than 4,000 lynchings that took place between 1877 and 1950. The Memorial will stretch between Holcomb and Caroline streets.

"Our effort isn't meant to be divisive in any way," Boone stated. "We are really trying to unite everyone. In order to do so, the truth will get us there."

EJI has hired the same group that helped design the 9-11 memorial to construct the museum in downtown Montgomery. The museum will not only discuss slavery but its direct connection to socio-economic issues and mass incarceration.

The museum is slated to open in April and the memorial will likely open in late 2017.

You can view more about the memorial here, including this video:

You can also learn more about the museum on EJI's website, including this video
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