How Equal Justice Initiative is Helping America Confront our History of Racial Violence
Social InnovationThis week the Equal Justice Initiative celebrates the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama. Here's why that work, and this moment, are so important.
“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” EJI Director Bryan Stevenson explains. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”
The Memorial's focus on lynching shows the worst of our history. We often hold prejudices against one another, which affects how individuals access equalizing opportunities, like education; how they experience systems that can be greatly affected by bias, like the criminal justice system; and most importantly, how we interact with each other on a daily basis.
In 2016 a group of College Track students traveled to Montgomery to learn more with the Equal Justice Initiative. In addition to visiting locations in the historic city that are key to the history of enslavement and lynching, the students participated in EJI's ongoing soil collection project. Part of the National Memorial, the project allows participants to confront the traumatic realities of the deep South by collecting soil from sites where lynching occurred. The museum has also designed mobile monuments that will be placed across the country to mark these sites and honor the victims.
"There was blood in that soil, there's DNA in that soil," says Stevenson. "There is history in that soil that needs to be resurrected if we're going to really be free in this country."