While standing inside the National Lynching Memorial or the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama, I read these death notices.

  • After an overcoat went missing from a hotel in Tifton, Georgia, in 1900, two black men were lynched, whipped to death while being “interrogated” in the woods.
  • Mary Turner was lynched, with her unborn child, at Folsom Bridge at the Brooks-Lowndes County line in Georgia in 1918 for complaining about the recent lynching of her husband, Hayes Turner.
  • William Donegan was lynched in Springfield, illinois, in 1908 for having a white wife.
  • Ernest Green and Charlie Lang, both 14, were lynched in Shubuta, Mississippi, in 1942 after a white girl said they were threatening.

and the list goes on ……

After reading those death notices, I realized the true meaning of the sentence that is inscribed in the front gate of the memorial.

Peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice.

By Martin Luther King Jr.

Peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice #travel Click To Tweet
At the entrance of the memorial, this sculpture by artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo portrays the depravity of human slavery, of bondage, and of humiliation and agony in a way that penetrates one’s mind and heart.

The sculpture that penetrates one’s heart and mind in the Lynching Memorial, Montgomery

After the security check, when we entered the memorial, the very first sculpture we saw was self-explaining and had a strong visual impact. Slavery was the beginning of the heart-rending narrative of what happened to people of African origin in America.

After the security check, when we entered the memorial, the very first sculpture we saw was self-explaining and had a strong visual impact. #travel Click To Tweet
How could the enslaved men, women and children endure the agony ?

Stories of torture, rape, and lynching made my heart tremble with sadness and fear. I still wonder why human beings torture fellow human beings. Why can’t love, tenderness and kindness wash over every soul? When I visited concentration camps in Germany and Poland, I felt the same pain while visiting another dark chapter of world history.

Stories of torture, rape, and lynching made my heart tremble with sadness and fear. I still wonder why human beings torture fellow human beings. Why can't love, tenderness and kindness wash over every soul? #travel Click To Tweet
The question that haunts me – Is it too hard to be a human?

I don’t know for how many times I read this quote by Toni Morrison inside the memorial. My vision blurred and I felt it in my heart.

And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight.
So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up.
And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them.
The dark, dark liver – love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too.
More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air.
More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart.
For this is the prize.

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The dark history of torture, terror, and torment in America

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, 12 million African people were kidnapped, chained and bought to the Americas after a torturous journey across the Atlantic ocean. Nearly two million people died during the voyage.
  • The labor of enslaved black people fueled economic growth in the United States, where an ideology of white supremacy and racial difference was created to justify slavery and make it morally acceptable.
  • In the 19th century, the demand for enslaved labor grew despite calls for the end of the international slave trade.
  • A thriving plantation economy in the United States and the forcible taking of land from Native people generated the Domestic Slave trade.
  • A million enslaved people in the North were trafficked to the south. Nearly half of all enslaved people were separated from their children, spouses, parents or siblings during the Domestic Slave Trade.

Note: Information presented here is collected from The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

American Civil War

The Civil War, also known as “The War Between the States,” was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, a collection of eleven southern states that left the Union in 1860 and 1861 and formed their own country in order to protect the institution of slavery.

Note: Information presented here is collected from American Battlefield Trust

Torture, murder, and abuse of the enslaved people after the civil war

After the South’s defeat in the Civil War, the 13th Amendment was passed, prohibiting involuntary servitude and forced labor but leaving intact a bitter resistance to racial equality.


Inside the memorial: These are steel structures that appear like a grave when one is standing in front. Then they begin to rise, until they are dangling overhead like vertical steel coffins, just like a lynching victim.

Continued support for white supremacy and racial hierarchy meant that slavery in America did not end – it evolved. Many white people reacted violently to the requirement to treat their former “human property” as equals and pay for their labor.

Those are not merely steel monuments dangling overhead but souls of thousands of tortured people. Bryan Stevenson, who is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative said “Lifting up those monuments was really important because the people who carried out lynchings could have murdered people and buried the bodies in the ground, they could have hidden the evidence,” Stevenson said. “But they didn’t want to do that. They wanted to lift it up to raise it over the entire community so every black person would be menaced and traumatized and terrorized.”

In the first two years after the war, thousands of black people were murdered for asserting their freedom and basic rights.

In this garden lie the replica of all the steel monuments inside the memorial, waiting to be claimed by respective counties, to take them back home and display them as a testimony to what happened .

Note: Information presented here is collected from The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Racial Terror Lynchings

From 1877 to 1950, millions of black Americans were targeted by racial terror lynchings. Over 4,400 lynchings of African Americans by groups of two to over 10,000 white people have been documented. Black people were lynched by hanging, burning, shooting, drowning, stabbing and beating.

Amen!

Note: Information presented here is collected from The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Launch of the Civil Rights Movement

When I stepped in the adjacent garden to the memorial, I came across the sculptures of three women. One among them is the sculpture of Rosa Parks who was arrested for challenging Montgomery’s law requiring segregation on buses. Her arrest sparked a mass protest that launched the modern civil rights movement and brought to prominence a young pastor named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For nearly a year, black people in Montgomery boycotted the buses. They collectively walked thousands of miles to end racial segregation in public transportation.

Another sculpture in the garden by Hank Willis Thomas named “Raise Up” sends a simple message – “don’t shoot“.

Please don’t shoot!
A life is a life ….

When I was capturing this moment in this frame I felt as if the men and women with their hands up in the air asking a question to those are dead – “How long?
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Remembering these lines by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from his speech – “I have a dream”

 There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?”
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our chlidren are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.”
We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. #Travel Click To Tweet

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Travel Realizations

After seeing the memorial and reading the descriptions of horrific murders, I found myself transfixed. The world in which I now live in has progressed leaps and bounds in terms of technology, living conditions, comfort, and health but can I say the same thing about humanity? I wonder!

After seeing the memorial and reading the descriptions of horrific murders, I found myself transfixed. The world in which I now live in has progressed leaps and bounds in terms of technology, living conditions, comfort, and health… Click To Tweet
Modern life is more about productivity than thinking. But I am undone. I let these chapters in history touch my soul. I think, I learn and then I write….

A one-dimensional thought process and focus on achievement in the present era can lead to great many things, but at the cost of kindness, care, tenderness, love, and empathy. What’s the use of comfort without love, without care and tenderness? I question myself! This question is for you too!

Oblivious to the horror of brutality, torture, and slavery, I saw my daughter standing quietly, touching one of the steel monuments. Her world blooms with love, beauty, and tenderness. I dream of gifting her a world that’s fair and where history doesn’t repeat!

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