It's been a long road, but the state of Alabama will receive major acknowledgment of its role in some of America's most painful historical moments. Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based legal rights organization, unveiled formal plans for a six-acre complex overlooking the city that will include a national memorial, The Memorial to Peace and Justice. The design calls for a forest of 801 six-foot-tall concrete columns, some of which will be eerily suspended from above, on which the names of some 4,000 African-American victims of lynching and extra-judicial murder will be engraved.
Alabama is not the only state, Southern or Northern, in which African-Americans were lynched (a term that can include more than hangings), nor were only black Americans the only victims of such terror. But this new memorial will tell a specific story of racial and economic oppression against African-Americans that has not yet been deeply covered by other major U.S. monuments.
To expand on that, near the new memorial, housed in a building that once served as a warehouse for slaves, will be "From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration," a museum for "high-tech exhibits, artifacts, recordings, and films, as well as comprehensive data and information on lynching and racial segregation," according to the official announcement. There, the ruinous racist consequences of slavery—through peonage and Jim Crow laws—will be traced.
Organizers hope their complex will take its place alongside Washington, D.C.'s Holocaust Memorial Museum as a crucial testament to an enormous social phenomenon that people otherwise may not learn about: "Racial terrorism forced millions of black people to flee the South during the first half of the 20th century and played a major role in shaping the demographic geography of America by creating large black populations in urban communities in the North and West."
The complex is slated to open in the spring of 2017.