The National Memorial for Peace and Justice should be one of your first stops if you ever decide to take a trip to Montgomery, AL. If you read my post on the Legacy Museum, you will understand that Montgomery has a lot of history in regards to the Civil Rights as well as the progression of Black people in America. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, or as it use to be called, “The Lynching Museum” is just one portion that speaks on that history. This memorial pays homage to the 4,000 documented black people that were lynched with the Reconstruction Era of America’s history.
When you walk into the memorial you are greeted by a Martin Luther King Jr. quote which states, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” As you continue your journey through the field, life story of African Americans starts with the sculpture that was created by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. This concrete, multi-figured, statue tells the story of the transatlantic slave trade and how men, women and children were enchained to be taken to a world they knew little of. This peace is titled, Nkyinkyim Installation.
As you pass the sculpture, my wife and I came to notice that the shape of the memorial resembled a ship. Which starts you at the top and begins your voyage to seeing the stories of the many victims to lynching. The first level you come to realize that all of the metal boxes, which are 6ft tall and made to resemble coffins, are all on the ground. The lower you go into the memorial they gradually get high and high till they are hanging over you.
Within this trek, you are able to read the names of each victim and what county and state they were located in. I think one of the most surprising thing I came to find was how many people was lynched in Fulton County, Georgia during this period. Think we all forget sometimes that the cities and counties we stay in wasn’t always the way they are now. Fulton County literally had the most lynchings that I’ve seen on all of the metal boxes at this memorial. The other one I definitely had to find was Clayton County, Georgia simply because this is were I grew up. After knowing much history about Clayton County, or “Clayco” as many may called it, I was surprised that it was only 3 too many. If anyone has looked up the history of Clayton County you would know that many party of the county was plantations and played a huge part in the confederacy. So much so, that even in Jonesboro, Georgia their is still a Confederate burial ground, a plantation and a memorial for the movie ‘Gone With The Wind’ being filmed there.
Continuing our walk through the memorial a come to an area that lists the stories of people who have been lynched. One of the saddest stories was the story of Mary Turner and her unborn child who were lynched for protesting the lynching of her innocent husband. Honestly, many of those stories are enough to make you sick and pissed at how the United States has treated African Americans.
As you get lower into the memorial you come to a message that states,
For the hanged and beaten.
For the shot, drowned, and burned.
For the tortured, tormented, and terrorized.
For those abandoned by the Rule of Law.
WE WILL REMEMBER.
With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
With courage because peace requires bravery.
With persistence because justice is a constant struggle.
With faith because we shall overcome.
At the point, the metal boxes are completely over your head and water slowly waterfalls down the wall further along. As you exit out of this area, I’m glad on the day we was there it was a beautiful sunny day, because it feels pretty dark within the lynching memorial. When you get to the outside portion of the memorial, the same metal boxes that are inside are there as well. These metal boxes are for the counties that would like to own up to their history and acknowledge the people that were lynched and pay homage.
This memorial is breathtaking even with all of the hardships throughout all of it. Through all of the history that can be taken in within this memorial and the Legacy Museum. I am amazed that we are still thriving through all of it. We are still growing, living and accomplishing many dreams that weren’t even supposed to happen. I know that history of America hurts, but I truly feel knowing our history gives us even more value and determination to push for a better future. I hope to visit the memorial again one day and the other museums that Montgomery has to offer.
The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice can be seen together for the price of $5.