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My visit to a lynching museum

derangedvisions3 months ago6 min read

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice


Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. This was an amazing experience that I was looking forward to on when I found out the route we were taking on our trip for the Civil War book I was working on.

The quote on the wall in the picture says "Thousands of African Americans are unknown victims of racial terror lynchings whose deaths cannot be documented, many whose names will never be known. They are honored here."

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

The museum was constructed to honor the more than 4400 documented lynching victims from 1877 to 1950 in the US. There is believed to be about 3-4 times more victims that were never documented.

In the museum there are 800 steel monuments hanging from the ceiling, each one representing a county in the US where a lynching occurred. The names of the victims in each of the counties are engraved on the monument that is hanging.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

You could feel the tension


The museum had recently opened in April and it is a pretty controversial topic in the south right now. One of the things that I had noticed that the others in my group had not noticed was that there was a large amount of security posted around the outsides of the museum all along the walls.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

There were also fire alarms and fire extinguishers placed all over the place. I spoke with one of the workers and asked if they had received threats against the museum while it was under construction and they said that they had kept the meaning of the museum pretty quiet while it was being built, but when it opened there had been some backlash from some in the area.

Emotional times


It is hard to read the reports of some of the lynchings and why they happened. Here are a few of the horrible reasons why this happened to these people.

General Lee, a black man, was lynched by a white mob in 1904 for merely knocking on the door of a white woman’s house in Reevesville, South Carolina. source

In 1934, after being accused of “associating with a white woman” in Newton, Texas, John Griggs was hanged and shot seventeen times and his body was dragged behind a car through the town for hours. source

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

In 1918, Private Charles Lewis was lynched in Hickman, Kentucky, after he refused to empty his pockets while wearing his Army uniform. source

White men lynched Jeff Brown in 1916 in Cedarbluff, Mississippi, for accidentally bumping into a white girl as he ran to catch a train. source

The stories were horrible and it was hard to realize that this was happening less than 100 years ago. It was a big eye opener to what has gone on in this area of the US because it is an area that I am not from.

As I was walking around reading the names and taking pictures, I noticed a group of three women and they appeared to be searching for something or someone.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

I could tell that they were becoming emotional being in this place as they were searching for what I assume to be a loved one that had been brutalized.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

The older woman spent time wiping away tears as they searched for the area where the county that the name they were searching for was located.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

The museum is laid out nicely and all of the workers can point you in the direction of a certain county you are looking for. It did not take them long to find the one that they were looking for.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

I could only imagine what was going on in that woman's mind seeing the name on the monument. I don't know if it was a father, grandfather or what, but I could tell that it was someone that meant something to her.

This was a powerful moment to see the impact that these events were still having today.

The bonds of Slavery


When you first enter in the museum there is a large sculpture of a group of slaves in shackles. This is a very in your face display and really sets the tone of the whole museum because the artist did an excellent job capturing the emotion in these sculptures.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

On the wall near the sculpture plaque with information about the start of slavery in the US.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

It states that during the 17th and 18th centuries, 12 million African people were brought to the US on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

During that time, nearly 2 million of those on the torturous journey died along the way.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

They were packed into the ships for the 2-3 month long voyage with barely room to move. If someone were to die during the trip, they were still chained next to the others for the remained of the trip.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

It is hard for anyone to imagine the atrocities that this people had to endure. The horrible thing is that there are still areas of the world that this is still happening.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

The only thing that we as a people can do from here is to not try to erase the past or to hide the mistakes that have been made. That is one of the reasons that this museum was constructed. It was made to honor those that were victims of these acts of violence, but also to server as a reminder of where our country has been so that we do not return to that state.

Photo taken by me @derangedvisions

Thank you for taking the time to check out this post. This is not an easy topic to read about, nor discuss, but it is something that needs to be remembered. The victims of this are that, victims, and to forget about the past and act like it never happened is kind of like erasing their memory and everything that they had gone through. Let's all hope that we can all grow as human beings and never go through anything like this again.

Never Forget



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