Thursday, April 26, I attended the opening of the Equality Initiative Justice Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, AL. I had been anticipating this day for a long time. As I was preparing for my trip, I was thinking about what to expect and the emotions I would feel when I walk on the grounds.
The lynching museum has been long overdue. I remember watching "60 Minutes" and Oprah Winfrey did a segment of the museum. There was backlash from the majority that they were uncomfortable to see photos of African American men, women and children that were lynched. My response is, I'm glad they were uncomfortable. The history of African American have been disrespected, whitewashed and withheld for too long. Black History is American History.
The lynching museum is in remembrance of 4,400+ documented and unknown
African American that were lynched between 1877-1950. Hanging from the top of the roof are 800 6-foot steel blocks divided by state and county of lynching victims.
Walking around the memorial, I kept thinking about the song "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday.
Southern trees bear strange fruit Blood on the leaves and blood at the root Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit For the crows to pluck For the rain to gather For the wind to suck For the sun to rot For the leaves to drop Here is Strange and bitter crop
Sometimes when history is discussed it is assumed male history. At times it fails to acknowledge women. Even though the men were the majority, women were lynched too.
Betsie McCray and her daughter, Ida, were lynched in Mississipppi.
There were lynchings in Illinois in Alexander, Sangamon and St. Clair County.
Illinois steel block.
Many unknown African Americans were lynched in the State of Illinois.
The reasons for the lynching of African Americans were very upsetting.