By Frederick H. Lowe
Sometime next month, the Equal Justice Initiative, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama will announce the opening date for a national memorial to victims of lynching and a museum focused on the legacy of slavery.
The memorial will be located on six acres of land in Montgomery. The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,000 racial terror lynching of men, women and children between 1877 and 1950.
The victims were either hanged, beaten to death, burned to death, shot to death or drowned by white mobs. EJI has collected soil in locations where 300 lynchings took place.
EJI and MASS Design Group, which is based in Boston, have worked together to design a classical structure for the national lynching memorial, consisting of 800 columns — one for each county where EJI documented racial terror lynchings.
When visitors enter the memorial, the ground drops and perception shifts as visitors realize that the columns that appeared to be holding up the structure are monuments suspended from above, which evoke the lynchings that took place in the public square. Over 4000 names of lynching victims will be inscribed on these monuments.
Mass Design Group’s motto is: “Architecture is never neutral. It either heals or hurts. Our mission is to research, build, and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity.”
Sherrilyn A. Ifill argues that there is a critical need for memorialization, an urgent need to change the landscape with regard to the history of lynching in America: “Public spaces have yet to become part of the formal reparation or racial reconciliation process for Black Americans.”
Ifill, who leads the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, champions the need for public memorials, an idea that has been expressed all over the world but not in the United States.
EJI director Bryan Stevenson has argued that “our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape.”