And the Whole Truth Will Set You Free

Sojourners faith retreat group prays at site of National Memorial in December 2015

Sojourners Executive Director Rev. Adam R. Taylor wrote last week that the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice "left an indelible mark and served as a poignant reminder around the imperative to tell the whole, unvarnished story of America — because only the whole truth will set us free."


Rev. Taylor was among a group of faith leaders from across the country who convened at EJI in December 2015 for two days of meetings and discussion about criminal justice reform and a pilgrimage through the story of slavery, racial terrorism, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration.


The group collected soil from sites where lynchings took place in Montgomery County and Elmore County, and offered prayers, reflections, and testimony at the site of the National Memorial before construction began (pictured).


Returning three years later, Rev. Taylor described the memorial space as "a jarring and stunning visual and physical manifestation of years of work by EJI to identify and memorialize more than 4,000 African-American men, women, and children who were lynched between 1877 and 1950."


The Legacy Museum, he observed, "tells the brutal truth about white supremacy in an uncensored and uncompromising way."


The museum connects the dots between the seen and unseen ways in which racial repression has evolved throughout our nation’s history — from the shackles of slavery to indentured servitude post reconstruction and a reign of terror through lynchings to the stark injustices of Jim Crow segregation to the criminalization of black bodies through the war on crime to the era of mass incarceration and racialized policing that we are seemingly stuck in today.


Reflecting on how the experiences of other post-genocide countries have grappled with their histories of terror, Rev. Taylor writes that the museum and memorial make "a searing and convincing case that we can't fully move forward unless we come to terms with our brutal past."


He implores us all to take inspiration from the museum and memorial to advance the work of telling the whole story about our nation's history, "from the extermination and brutal treatment of Native Americans to the subjugation of women to violence and discrimination toward the LGBTQ community."


I'm even more convinced that until we are capable of telling the whole story of our history we cannot be truly free and realize our full potential as a nation.