The open-air museum will “connect the history of racial inequality with contemporary issues of mass incarceration, excessive punishment and police violence.”
The EJI – a Montgomery based organization that works with prisoners denied equal treatment – plans to open the museum titled, “From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration,” in 2017.
It will be located close to one of the country’s biggest slave auction sites, the Alabama river dock and railway station, where tens of thousands of African Americans were trafficked. The project hopes to help re-write history and highlight what the EJI calls “racial terror lynchings.”
According to an EJI press statement, the open-air museum will “connect the history of racial inequality with contemporary issues of mass incarceration, excessive punishment and police violence.” Exhibits will include recordings, films, historical artifacts, new artworks by current African American artists, as well as information on lynchings and racial segregation.
The project will also include the nation’s first and only memorial to victims of racist lynchings, “The Memorial to Peace and Justice,” which will be built over six acres of land.
In a 2015 report, the EJI estimated that between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,000 lynchings of African Americans took place in the U.S, many more than estimated by previous by historians.
The large structure will have the names of these victims engraved into over 800 floating concrete columns, with each representing a U.S. county where lynchings took place. Columns will also be duplicated and placed in sites where lynchings took place across the country.
The columns will hang from the ceiling and as a visitor walks around the square, the floor will begin to drop. A video in the center of the structure will explain, “as we stand upon it, the experience of the gallows is inverted and the living stand in judgment by the dead.”
EJI founder, Bryan Stevenson, said that many other countries have memorials to victims of atrocities and that the U.S. needs to address its past of slavery, lynchings and segregation.
“We want to talk about all of the devastation. We want to talk about the fact that these lynchings took place in the public square with thousands of people cheering them on,” Stevenson was quoted as saying by CBS.
The memorial is being designed in partnership with MASS Design Group, an architectural firm based in Boston.