New York Times Reports EJI's Museum and Memorial Are Revitalizing Montgomery
The New York Times reported this week that EJI's Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice have attracted 400,000 more visitors to Montgomery since they opened in April 2018 than the year before.
Now, thousands of visitors arrive every day to experience new expressions of racial injustice, represented in a national monument to victims of lynching and an accompanying museum of slavery and mass incarceration. The two projects and the throngs of people who visit them are encouraging a surge of downtown construction.
New hotels, retail spaces, offices, entertainment venues, and residences are under construction across the city, and these redevelopment projects are involving small, local developers. Jason King, a principal of Dover, Kohl and Partners, an urban planning firm that wrote Montgomery’s downtown master plan in 2007, told the Times, "Everyone is taking part. Not just the big guys."
EJI is now working to turn an empty city lot and warehouse into a visitor center that will house our ticket office, gift shop, bookstore, and a new soul food restaurant, as well as provide 150 parking spaces for visitors to our sites.
EJI Director Bryan Stevenson explained to the Times that EJI developed the sites out of necessity. "I became focused on cultural spaces for people to deal honestly with the past. We've done a terrible job in America of talking honestly about slavery and segregation," he said. "I knew it was going to be significant because it hadn't happened in America and it needed to be done. I just wasn't sure how much interest there would be."
I became focused on cultural spaces for people to deal honestly with the past. We've done a terrible job in America of talking honestly about slavery and segregation.
The tremendous amount of interest in the sites has boosted the local economy and statewide tourism figures. And it's not only tourists who are engaging with the sites and grappling with the legacy of our nation's history of racial injustice. "We're confronting our past. We're owning the issues that Bryan is talking about," Montgomery mayor Todd Strange told the Times. "The Memorial for Peace and Justice is amazing. It's powerful."