America’s first lynching memorial is about to open in the ‘Cradle of the Confederacy’ — here’s what it looks like

For over 150 years, the city of Montgomery, Alabama has been known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy.” In 1861, the city played a central role in the formation of the Confederate States of America, made up of 11 US states that sought to secede and maintain slavery.

But now, in 2018, Montgomery wants to reflect on the horrifying history of American slavery and racism. On April 26, the city will open the nation’s first memorial and museum devoted to the history of lynchings in the US.

The project, spearheaded by a local nonprofit called the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), will pay tribute to lynching victims as well as chronicle the dark parts of the African-American experience — from slavery to today’s national epidemic of mass incarceration.

Take a look at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Legacy Museum below


A rendering of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI/MASS Design Group


A rendering of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI


In the early 1860s, the US was at a turning point in its history. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln — a staunch opponent to slavery — 11 states led by the Confederacy announced they would secede.

Serving as the Confederate capital, Montgomery invited delegates from the Deep-South states to draft a constitution for a new nation in 1861. The Confederacy lost this fight, but Montgomery gained a nickname: the “Cradle of the Confederacy.”

“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” he said. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”


The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI
When visitors go into the memorial, the blocks hang over their heads.


The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI
Each county has its own monument engraved with the names of the victims, along with the dates of their deaths.


A sculpture by Titus Kaphar inside the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI
The nearby Legacy Museum chronicles America’s history of slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration.



The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI
As part of EJI’s Community Remembrance Project, the museum includes a display with jars of soil collected from lynching sites and engraved with the names of victims.


The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.EJI
“We must address oppressive histories by helping communities to honestly and soberly recognize the pain of the past,” the organization said.


The memorial includes several works of art. Visitors will see Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo’s sculpture, pictured below, when they enter.


Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, July 8, 2017.
The timing of the memorial and museum’s opening is especially relevant in 2018.


In the past two years, the country has seen more public displays of white-supremacist pride.And now, cities across the US are debating whether to keep or discard their Confederate symbols — materialized in statues, school names, and street signs — from public spaces.

Nearly a dozen cities have removed Confederate monuments in the past year alone.

In an interview with Business Insider, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said he doesn’t plan to push for the removal of Confederate symbols in the city, including the name of Robert E. Lee High School, comprised predominantly of black students.

“I don’t think taking them down changes history … We don’t go out and salute [the Confederate symbols] every day,” he said. “The truth is I don’t really think about it.”


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Usher, Common, The Roots, Kirk Franklin, and more will perform at the opening ceremony of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum on April 26.

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