Every fourth grader in Alabama studies Alabama History, with many schools taking an annual field trip to Montgomery to see first-hand our state’s Capitol. I remember my own fourth grade school’s field trip stopping at many of the historical sites and visiting the Alabama Archives and History building.
Last week, the Equal Justice Initiative opened a new museum and memorial that is devoted to victims of lynching. The memorial is located on a small hill in Montgomery’s Cottage Hill neighborhood. A few blocks down is a museum, which creates a space where us Americans can reflect on our history of racial inequality.
Equal Justice Initiative and the Vision for the Memorial
The Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson said he chose to focus on lynching because he believes that mass atrocities and abuse must be recognized and remembered before our society can recover and reconcile from mass violence. The Equal Justice Initiative chose Montgomery since research revealed the city to be a larger center of the slave trade than previously thought. The museum is located on the former site of a warehouse where enslaved black people were imprisoned.
Between 1877 and 1950, roughly 4,400 African American men, women and children were lynched by white mobs. The vision for the Museum and Memorial is to honor the victims, reflect upon the present-day meaning of lynching and racial injustice and educate visitors about these uncomfortable parts of U.S. history.
Inside the National Memorial for Peace and Justice
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice sits on a six-acre site. It features 805 six-foot-tall monuments to lynching, each a piece of weathered steel representing one of the counties where a lynching took place. Hanging from the ceiling of the memorial, the markers offer cold reminders of the victims.
The museum’s entrance includes replicas of the pens where the enslaved were corralled. It also has a display that recreates the feeling of waiting for one’s turn on an auction block. Several exhibits and videos chronicle lynching, the Jim Crow South and modern racial injustice.
The museum and the memorial are moving, beautiful tributes to those who lost their lives because of their skin color. I’m hopeful and thankful that this memorial and museum will open our eyes to the full picture of racism and bring new conversations that will empower and inspire people to ensure a healthy future for generations to follow.
Museum and Memorial Hours & Costs
The Memorial is open Monday through Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm but closed on Tuesday.
The Museum is open Monday through Sunday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm but closed on Tuesday.
Both are closed on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day.
A combination ticket to visit both the museum and the memorial is $10.00 for adults. Timed entry tickets are required for the Museum. To make sure you’re able to experience both the Museum and Memorial on your preferred days, it is suggested purchasing tickets online in advance of your visit.
Below are some pictures from the Memorial:
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.