Marcia, Grace, and I went on a trip to Alabama last week. We visited the locations on the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama. We started at the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham. From there we went to Selma, to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We finished the trip in Montgomery. While in Montgomery, visited the church where Martin Luther King was a pastor. We also visited The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the Lynching Memorial, created by the Equal Justice Initiative.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is dedicated to the legacy of lynching and racial terrorism during the Jim Crow era. There are 800, six foot monuments. Each county with a documented case of lynching or terroristic killing is represented. All of the counties in metro Atlanta have a monument there. Each monument is suspended in the air, symbolically recalling a lynching. The sight of these hanging monuments is tragic, beautiful and somber.
Earlier that day, we went to the Legacy Museum, also created by the Equal Justice Initiative. This museum tells the story of racial inequality from the slave trade to our current prison industry.
I know how Jim Crow laws created two separate rules for Blacks and whites in society. That said, It was striking to seeing how the museum displayed these rules that were written into law, making it official government policy. These laws reached into the world of art and entertainment. There were several laws written to keep blacks and whites separated as performers on stage and separated in the audience as they watched a show. I am a professional clown, this one about circuses got my attention.
Louisiana required circuses to maintain separate, racially segregated tents ... 15 La. Gen. Stat. § 9791 (1939)
The museum conceptualizes how the legacy of the middle passage, slavery, and Jim Crow era lingers with us.
"History is not the past.
It is the present.
We carry our history with us.
We are our history.
If we pretend otherwise, we literally are criminals."