Physical, mental and social trauma caused by white supremacy in the United States’ early days is being recognized at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Dubbed the “lynching museum,” the memorial commemorates the stories of lynching victims and is set to open Thursday (April 25) in Montgomery, Ala.
Led by the Equal Justice Initiative, the six-acre site is dedicated to more than 4,400 documented lynching victims, according to AL.com, with 800 six-foot monuments engraved with names that symbolize counties in the country those people were lynched. Volunteers went to each lynching site, collected soil and dirt, and placed them in jars with the victim’s name that are now a part of the museum’s display.
Grotesque statues of what looks like shackled African Americans on their knees screaming in anguish is nothing like any memorial in the United States, according to the New York Times. EJI founder Bryan Stevenson said the memorial is inspired by the Holocaust memorials in Germany and the Apartheid Museum in South Africa.
Stevenson told the Times that history must be acknowledged and faced head-on, not for punishment, but for liberation. “I’m not interested in talking about America’s history because I want to punish America,” he said. “I want to liberate America. And I think it’s important for us to do this as an organization that has created an identity that is as disassociated from punishment as possible.”