EJI Opens New Legacy Museum
We are proud to announce the opening of the new Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, which opened to the public for previews on September 1 and will officially open on October 1. The new Legacy Museum provides a comprehensive history of the legacy of slavery from the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its impact on the Northeast and coastal communities through the Domestic Slave Trade. The museum explores the Reconstruction era, lynchings, codified racial segregation, and contemporary issues including police violence and mass incarceration. We’re thrilled that the museum also includes a new art gallery with works by extraordinary world-class artists.
The new Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is four times the size of the current space and provides a deeper, richer, and more comprehensive narrative about American history and the legacy of slavery. A new Transatlantic Slave Trade wing includes more than 200 new sculptures by African artists. We created several original animated short films developed for the space with narration from award-winning artists like Lupita Nyong'o, Don Cheadle, and Wendell Pierce. Findings from new research by our staff and other scholars are utilized to narrate presentations about slavery in the North and in the coastal United States and the role of European governments. The new museum will help visitors understand how the forced abduction and trafficking of millions of Black people created lasting injuries and suffering.
The new space features a unique exhibit on the Middle Passage that uses cutting-edge technology to dramatize an agonizing journey. Content on the Domestic Slave Trade has been greatly expanded to include more first person narratives from enslaved people trafficked to the Deep South in the 19th century. The narrative and scholarship behind the evolution of slavery thesis is presented and visitors will enter a whole new wing dedicated to understanding slavery in America. The economics of enslavement, the violence of slavery, sexual violence against enslaved Black women, the commodification of people, and the desperate efforts enslaved people made to stay connected to loved ones is explored through text, art sculptures, iconography, and video animations and film. The tragedy of enslaving human beings from birth because of their race is detailed in a tangible way that we believe will deepen our nation's understanding of our past. An expansive new exhibit on Reconstruction documents the important 12-year period in American history with a detailed timeline, short films, and first person narrative accounts.
EJI's new museum dramatically expands its content on lynching into a new wing that looks at the role of media during the era of racial terror violence. Last words of lynching victims have been researched and presented to dramatize the suffering racial terrorism imposed on entire communities. Research on the lynching of children is presented with stories and facts that help visitors understand the scale of terror and violence many families endured. First person accounts from descendants of lynching victims and witnesses to lynching violence are presented in audio and photographic exhibits. These first-person accounts are enhanced by an examination of the heroic effort to challenge lynching violence led by Ida B. Wells and student activists who protested for years. Haunting, original photographs of white mobs are in the space and the face of terror is made clear. A stunning new exhibit which features 800 jars of soil collected from around the country as part of EJI's Community Remembrance project is a unique and powerful display of the growing community response to reckoning with this painful past.
The Jim Crow era and the courageous effort to confront racial segregation is presented with extensive exploration of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the work of legendary activists. The iconography of Jim Crow is dramatically presented in a collection of actual signs and notices collected from around the country. EJI has compiled laws and statutes that codified racial apartheid in America for visitors to read and experience. Resistance to racial integration is fully explored because an understanding of contemporary issues is impossible without a clear examination of the multiple ways that elected officials, courts, and local communities organized to disenfranchise and reject calls for civil rights and the end of white supremacy. Barriers to voting for Black people are featured in the museum as a central component of how equal rights were undermined throughout this era. Visitors can take a poll test and experience the arbitrary and humiliating way local officials would disenfranchise Black residents.
A new wing on mass incarceration features more voices of people wrongly condemned, unfairly sentenced, and unjustly treated in recent years. The plight of children prosecuted as adults, the mentally ill, and the poor, as well as conditions of confinement are detailed. The current tolerance of graphic racial bigotry is explored at length in this new space which also includes stunning art pieces from artists like Hank Willis Thomas and Sanford Biggers. The history of policing provides context for contemporary issues that rage around police violence and presumptions of dangerousness that burden Black and brown people.
A new Reflection Space honors 400 people who worked throughout their lives to challenge racial injustice in different ways. Visitors will have an opportunity to learn more about each of these racial justice champions.
We are especially proud to announce that our new museum includes a world class art gallery. The gallery presents an extraordinary collection of extraordinary art from the most celebrated Black artists in the country including major works by Glenn Ligon, Elizabeth Catlett, Alison Saar, Gordon Parks, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Deborah Roberts, Nelson Makamo, Carrie Mae Weems, Whitfield Lovell, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, Sandrine Plante, Paul Briggs, Titus Kaphar, Romare Bearden, John Biggers, Dawn Williams Boyd, Kay Brown, Yvonne Cole, and Simone Leigh. An exhibit by the extraordinary vernacular artist Winfred Rembert can be experienced with additional works from many, many more artists. Some of the works are new and have been created specifically for the Legacy Museum. All of the works respond to the history presented within the museum and powerfully represent issues highlighted in the narrative space. Collaborations with Wynton Marsalis, Alvin Ailey, The Aeolians, Chrystal Rucker, Brandie Sutton, and more explore the role of music and dance in understanding this history.
Outside of the museum, a powerful memorial to victims of racial terror violence during Reconstruction has been erected. A large plaza features other art, food, and spaces for conversation. Our award-winning restaurant Pannie-George's Kitchen provides some of the best Southern comfort food you'll find and a curated bookstore will allow visitors to dig even deeper into this history with a collection of the best works of literature and content on the subjects presented.
EJI is committed to making its spaces fully accessible and is financing admission to both the National Memorial and the Legacy Museum by providing entrance with a single ticket costing just $5.