In my recent column for the Bertie Ledger-Advance I wrote about my travels to Montgomery, Alabama to visit The Legacy Museum:From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, and, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. This was such an inspiring trip that I decided to share my journey with you, my SouthernmomJD readers.
As an African-American woman and mother, I am a big proponent of exposing African-American children to as much of our history and culture as one can possibly expose them to. Not only does it give them a sense of connection, it also helps them appreciate all of the sacrifices made in order for them to progress and become productive citizens in the United States of America. So, my decision to stop in Montgomery, Alabama during our Christmas travels was because I wanted to make sure my young adult daughter and nephew were given another opportunity to be exposed to their African-American history and culture. Not to mention, I was excited to have an opportunity to tour these places after reading Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, and seeing the Memorial on 60 minutes.
While I knew I would enjoy the Museum and Memorial, I was not prepared for the wave of emotion that I felt while touring these places. Okay, let me be honest, I am always overcome with emotion whenever I tour places like these. My kids always look at me before beginning a tour and ask, “are you going to cry this time mom?” I always blame it on genetics because my mother is the same way :-).
Unfortunately, we were not able to take pictures in The Legacy Museum:From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration so I am not able to provide pictures that would help me to fully share that moving experience with you. Let me just say as a criminal defense attorney I thought I would be numb to the portion of the museum dedicated to mass incarceration. This was so far from the truth. As I strolled through the museum, reading letters from prisoners, watching video footage, and taking in the abundance of other information provided by the Equal Justice Initiative I began to cry as I thought about the parallels between my work as a criminal defense attorney in rural North Carolina and the work done by the Equal Justice Initiative. I left the museum reinvigorated and with a deep appreciation for the work that we do as criminal defense attorneys dedicated to representing the poor and disenfranchised.
With that being said, you do not have to be an attorney to appreciate the museum. The Legacy Museum lays out a clear path in order to demonstrate how mass incarceration is a modern day form of dealing with the undesirable black population after the abolition of slavery.
Much to Ally and Caleb’s chagrin, lightning forced us to have to wait patiently for about an hour before we were able to enter The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Not to be deterred, I stood in the waiting area ignoring their “are we seriously going to stand here” stares. When we were finally allowed to enter the memorial, I dashed into the rain with the young adults slowly trailing behind.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is dedicated to “the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence”. The memorial square contains 800 six-foot monuments that symbolize thousands of “racial terror lynching” victims in the United States. Outside of the square there are identical monuments that have been created with the hope that counties across the country will claim their monuments and install them in their permanent homes, the counties they represent. Additionally, the memorial is the home to beautiful sculptures (pictured above) dedicated to the civil rights era.
If you are ever close to, or just looking for a place to visit, be sure to stop in Montgomery, Alabama. I promise…you will not be disappointed!
Did you know that Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama and that Montgomery is where the White House of the Confederacy sits? I had no idea until this trip.