MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Visitors to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice first glimpse them, eerily, in the distance: Brown rectangular slabs, 800 in all, inscribed with the names of more than 4,000 souls who lost their lives in lynchings between 1877 and 1950.
Each pillar is 6 feet (2 meters) tall, the height of a person, and made of steel that weathers to different shades of brown. Viewers enter at eye level with the monuments, allowing a view of victims’ names and the date and place of their slaying.
As visitors descend downward on a slanted wooden plank floor, the slabs seemingly rise above them, suspended in the air in long corridors, evoking the image of rows of hanging brown bodies.
The memorial and an accompanying museum that open this week in Montgomery are a project of the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group in Montgomery. The organization says the two sites will be the nation’s first “comprehensive memorial dedicated to racial terror lynchings of African Americans and the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in America.”