April 26 (UPI) — Alabama opened the nation’s first memorial to the victims of lynching in the United States on Thursday.
Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson conceived the idea for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as a result of researching thousands of racial terror lynchings in the American South, many of which had never been documented.
The six-acre site in Montgomery, Ala., includes a memorial square with 800 six-foot corten steel monuments meant to represent the victims of lynching.
“The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not,” the EJI said.
Stevenson told NPR he was inspired by the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and wanted to capture the brutality of the killing of black people in the Jim Crow South.
“They lifted these bodies up as a statement to the entire African-American community,” Stevenson said. “They wanted to lift up this violence this terror this tragedy for others to see.”
Each of the steel columns is separated by county and includes the name of each person who was killed there and another exhibit features bell jars filled with dirt from the site of each lynching and also bearing the names of those killed.
It also features sculptures by artists such as Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, Dana King and Hank Willis Thomas representing slavery, the women who sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott and modern police violence respectively.