The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice will become the nation’s first comprehensive memorial dedicated to over 4400 victims of racial terror lynchings. Racial violence by white mobs was accommodated for decades in America, especially in the American South where millions of African Americans were terrorized and ultimately fled the region in the 20th century.
EJI’s national lynching memorial will document this history in a six-acre memorial site that will feature 800 six-foot monuments acknowledging thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States and detailing the counties and states where this terrorism took place. The memorial site will contextualize racial terror lynchings through sculptures dramatizing the legacy of slavery, codified racial segregation, and contemporary issues of racial violence.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
417 Caroline Street
Lynching in America
In the report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, EJI documented more than 4400 lynchings of black people in the United States between 1877 and 1950. EJI identified 800 more lynchings than had previously been recognized.
Racial terror lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. Lynchings in the American South were not isolated hate crimes committed by rogue vigilantes. Lynching was targeted racial violence at the core of a systematic campaign of terror perpetuated in furtherance of an unjust social order. These lynchings were terrorism.
The lynching era left thousands dead; it significantly marginalized black people in the country's political, economic, and social systems; and it fueled a massive migration of black refugees out of the South. In addition, lynching - and other forms of racial terrorism - inflicted deep traumatic and psychological wounds on survivors, witnesses, family members, and the entire African American community.
Lynching created a culture of violence that continues to compromise healthy communities for everyone. And state officials' indifference to and complicity in lynchings created enduring national and institutional wounds that we have not yet confronted or begun to heal.
Lynchings occurred in communities where African Americans today continue to remain marginalized, disproportionately poor, overrepresented in prisons and jails, and underrepresented in decision-making roles in the criminal justice system. Only by telling the truth about the age of racial terror and collectively reflecting on this period and its legacy can we hope that our present-day conversations about racial exclusion and inequality - and any policies designed to address these issues - will be accurate, thoughtful, and informed.
The Memorial. The main memorial structure is constructed of over 800 steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns. When visitors enter the memorial, perception shifts as visitors realize that the columns that appeared to be holding up the structure are actually monuments suspended from above, which evoke the lynchings that took place in the public square.
The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.
Why Build a Lynching Memorial?
"Our nation's history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape. 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."
EJI believes that publicly confronting the truth about our history is the first step towards recovery and reconciliation.
A history of racial injustice must be acknowledged, and mass atrocities and abuse must be recognized and remembered, before a society can recover from mass violence. Public commemoration plays a significant role in prompting community-wide reconciliation.
The memorial has been designed with the MASS Design Group, an award-winning architectural nonprofit committed to justice and human dignity, and with leading African American and African artists whose work is featured at the site, including Hank Willis Thomas, Dana King, and Kwame Akoto Bamfo.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice provides a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terrorism and its legacy.