If you ever take a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, you must visit The Legacy Museum. The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, located at 400 N Court St, Montgomery, AL 36104 is one of the most heartfelt, insightful, thought provoking, disturbing, yet powerful museums I have EVER been to. This place should be a must for everyone to visit and if anything ever happened to this country, The Legacy Museum should be protected at all cost.
Being a lover of Black history, Black History Month just gives me a simple reason to indulge on a personal love of my own. Recently we took a family road trip to Montgomery, Alabama to go to the The Legacy Museum and to see what the city had to offer. When looking up black history in Montgomery, you will find that they’re many places to go for black history. From the Rosa Parks Museum, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Freedom Rides Museum, Civil Rights Memorial and more. We choose the Legacy Museum due to seeing it on the news and reading the reviews on it, many people said that this place is a MUST! I can definitely say that they were correct, but we was not ready for the emotional rollercoaster, or passage that this place was about to take us on.
Before walking into the museum, we was informed that videos and pictures are not allowed inside the museum. At first, this disappointed us, especially because sometime you want to capture things to show to other people who haven’t been as of yet, but our feelings would quickly understand as we entered the first room. Walking into the museum you enter a dark room and is greeted by a massive ocean wave that is projected on a screen that begins to tell about the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. From sounds of the ocean currents and 4K visual of this wave, you don’t feel as if you are in a museum anymore, but more so you are apart of the vessel, or the cargo. As you continue your journey, you come to a room of screens that shows the start of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. I think sometimes being in the United States of America, we easily forget that the slave trade did not start here, but in South America, Central America and the Caribbean’s. With over 12 million Africans being enslaved and imported across the western hemisphere, almost 9 million Africans were enslaved in those areas even before coming to North America.
This information that hits just to begin the tour. Passing the informative screens you walk into a room that then has sculptures that are half way in the ground (which is water). I have probably only been in this place for about 15 minutes was already hit with an emotional kick as I look down and see a sculpture of a woman who is fighting for her life and trying not drown. What did it for me is I looked at her hair and it was literally in the same style of my daughters.
After this point, you go into a room that is filled with cells of enslaved Africans who holographically begin to tell you their story, or their concerns as you stand in front of them. The work that was put into these to make them so surreal is breathtaking. We stayed in this room for about 30 minutes listening to situations that were told from men, women and children.
After this room, is truly the period of history that I feel America doesn’t want to discuss and is trying to bury as deep as possible into the soil of American History. That is the time period that is considered as the Reconstruction of America. Slavery is something sad to say, if feel America has no problem with discussing, because America as thrived on stories of wealth, but the time period from 1870’s to around 1955, America was trying to figure out what in the world to do as they watched people they once may have owned FLOURISH in a world that wasn’t built for them to flourish in. Their only answer was to make them fearful by doing some of the most torturous thing that have been done in human history. The Reconstruction Era almost saw some light a they gave black men the right to vote, BUT that is one thing that made matters even worst.
People most times think when they see pictures of people being lynched, burnt, or more that this period was during slavery. Not at all, for a millennial. That could easily have been one of our grandparents, Or great grandparent. If you think that trauma didn’t stick with your elders while they may have been raising your parents, you are completely wrong. But also for the people that got away for doing things like that, just imagine how invincible they may have felt afterwards and knowing that they could still live their life like they did nothing wrong and how they raised their children afterwards. Or better yet, they brought their children to witness these heinous acts.
The Reconstruction Era is a time period where America saw black people thriving at a level that truly pissed them off. Throughout the museum at this point you come to read quotes from Governors, Senates, Majors and so forth who all looked at black people as nothing and would try to do anything to show that. This hate was prominent in the south, but did not exclude northerners from feeling the same way. Within this portion of the museum, I found myself trying to keep my composure with so many stories that I read.
From one black man who simply was lynched for winning an argument against a white man. Or Mary Turner and her unborn child who was lynched for protesting her husbands lynching. To make matters worst, while she hung, they cut her stomach open dropping her child to the ground. As it let out a cry a man stomped the baby’s head in. To even men being castrated while being lynched. But the one that hit me the hardest for some reason was the story of a man who was wrongfully lynched as they accused him of murder. They put him on a stake and burned him alive. As the wind blew the smoke and fire muffled what he was saying, but as the wind changed directions, they could hear him singing a gospel song that simply stated, “I’m coming home, God”.
During this portion, I found myself looking to the sky as my eyes watered up so much that I couldn’t see in front of me. Truth be told, having my 2 year old daughter with us was probably the only reason i didn’t cry as much as I wanted to, because she doesn’t understand what’s going on right now. She just sees that we are in a new big space and figures it’s a place where we are supposed to have a good time at. So me simply trying to hold back tears, I’m also going through bags to get Welch’s snacks or trying to make sure she don’t take off with her 4.2 speed toddler feet.
One thing that you have no choice but to feel, at least for me, is the Wall of jars that has the soil of 100’s of lynching locations in America. I feel energy and that was very overwhelming. Plus to think that wasn’t even a large percentage of the black people who have been DOCUMENTED to have died from a lynching.
History has tried to make people think after this period that America got on the straight and narrow and believed in equality for all, but that is a lie that we continue to see play out with mass incarcerations. Just like we see today how marijuana is legal in so many states, but their are still people in prison who are doing life bids for the same thing companies are making billions on now. In the mass incarceration location of the museum you can hear the stories of inmates doing out laddish bids and who are in jail because “they are guilty until they are proven innocent”. Plus with many laws in certain states how the system is capable of charging pre-teens and teenagers with adult sentences and also come to get life in prison when their life hasn’t even started.
I must stay the most beautiful thing about this museum is how it ends before you step out. After going through so much darkness you find yourself being welcomed by a room filled with bronze and brown color tones. I don’t know what it was, I swear when you walk into the Room of Reflection you will literally feel like your ancestors are hugging you. The whole time I was in this room I looked up and starred at every historic black leader who was on the walls. Many of them lived through the times I simply walked though and was capable of thriving out of it to create hope for the next generation. I would suggest that when you get into this room take a seat at one of the benches and google some of the people you see if you don’t know them.
Being in this room I knew I couldn’t fail. I have no other option but to succeed in all of the things I want to accomplish because sooooo many other people have sacrificed so much to make me capable of having an opportunity to be successful however I please.
If you get a chance to make it to Montgomery, AL, I highly recommend that you take some time to checkout the Legacy Museum. But also the National Memorial of Justice and Peace.
Address: 400 N Court St, Montgomery, AL 36104
The Legacy Museum’s Hours: