Lynching memorial recognizes victims of racial violence in America

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A memorial that honors thousands of victims of lynching and explores the lasting impact the practice had on American culture is now open in Alabama.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice sits on a six-acre site in the state's capital and contains 800 steel monuments that each represent a county in the United States where lynchings took place. The columns are engraved with the names of lynching victims from each of those counties.

Lynching refers to the mob-fueled killing of an accused person, often without a trial. The practice occurred throughout much of the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries and generally targeted African Americans, who were usually hanged in public.

The Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit behind the Alabama memorial, spent years compiling a report detailing thousands of instances of lynchings that occurred around the country between 1877 and 1950. The organization said its research identified hundreds of lynchings that had not been previously recognized.

Beyond lynching, the memorial also explores other aspects of racial inequality and injustice as they relate to the African American experience. It recognizes the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement and confronts police violence and other contemporary issues facing communities of color.

The Equal Justice Initiative called the memorial a "sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terror in America and its legacy."
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.