No Reconciliation Without Truth

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From The New Republic by Caleb Gayle:

When it comes to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, there are two kinds of monuments in America. There are memorials that seek to honor this country’s fitful march toward civil rights. Then there are the statues of generals and politicians—as well as the highways and schools that bear their name—who broke from the union to preserve slavery as a way of life. So much of this country’s racial history is marked by nothing more than a tree, an empty space—sites of forgotten trauma. On April 26, two new kinds of monuments will be unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama: The Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice, the latter being America’s first national monument to victims of lynching.

The museum sits on the site of a former warehouse where black slaves were imprisoned, between an infamous slave market and the dock that received blacks from the domestic slave trade. Relying on cutting-edge research and first-person accounts, it will leverage technology and a variety of media to showcase the tragedy of slavery, lynching, segregation, and more. The memorial, located on an elevated spot overlooking Montgomery, is a landmark structure: hundreds of columns suspended in air, like bodies dangling from branches, that represent the counties in America where lynchings took place. Together, the museum and memorial are unrivaled in the way they force the viewer to confront America’s violently racist past.

The monuments are the brainchild of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which unearthed approximately 4,400 incidents of lynching in nearly 800 counties, culminating in a 2015 report entitled “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror.” The idea behind Stevenson’s project is that truth and reconciliation are not “simultaneous,” as he has said—they are “sequential.” And in his opinion, America has “done a terrible job of truth-telling in this country about our history of racial inequality,” instead skipping to the reconciliation part.

Read the rest of the article at The New Republic

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Categories: African American History, United States History

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