Jeff Davis High School
As I walked through the Peace and Justice Memorial, gazing up at all the blocks with names and counties of all the people who were lynched, it sparked an overwhelming feeling of despondency within me. Even though I didn’t know the stories behind these names, I knew that whatever it was, it was a tragic one. In a way, I was very grateful for that because I am sure most of the names on those blocks were unfairly hung, mutilated, killed, and I don’t even want to think about how many of them were innocent children. The Memorial itself holds a great sense of knowledge and awareness to anyone who’s willing to listen, showcasing arguably one of the worst eras of United States history. Admittedly, I had toured this facility two times before but surprisingly, every time I visit, I am greeted with more knowledge and information to digest.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Memorial is that it doesn’t have to do much to leave its visitors astounded. The impact of the names speak for themselves. Just knowing the history about why those names and counties are even up there to begin with, starts questions sprouting up in my mind. As we walked around, talking about the different states and person whose life ended so devastatingly. It was also brought to my attention that many of those people’s families didn’t even know they were dead or how they were killed. Another thing that people’s families didn’t even know they were dead or how they were killed. Another thing that stuck with me was just how many names there were in general.
The Legacy Museum also did not disappoint. It was, in my opinion, more enjoyable since it took more of an interactive/ hands-on approach. The Legacy Museum showcases enslavement and mass incarceration, allowing you to have “phone calls” with the wrongly convicted, and watch a mini documentary about those same wrongly convicted or sentenced people. It also has jars of sand where people were tragically lynched, going a step further to show the graphic photos of those lynchings. Even here, some of the dirt in those jars had no name on the front because the person was unknown or was mutilated so badly, there were unidentifiable. One of the interesting things about this museum is that it’s built on a site where enslaved people were once housed. The Museum takes a very strong, honest, raw approach to the issue of past racism, mutilation, and lynching.
The Legacy Museum doesn’t just hold the power of truth, the location of the museum itself is powerful. Only steps away from what used to be a notable slave market and a port and rail station that trafficked thousands of enslaved black people during the 19th century. The museum uses the site to rewrite what that area will and should represent for many Americans everywhere. There, with all the interactive exhibits, videos, and pictures, I felt closer to the history, despite the gritty and gruesome details. Being able to be presented with a deep topic as enslavement and lynching, it felt very informative but interesting the entire time I was there.
Both museums were very inspiring to show how we as blacks in America, and just as Americans in general, have come so far (even though we still have ways to go), and even though our history is shrouded by sorrow, pain, discrimination, and hate, this museum shows that we as people can be better than our past. The museum shows that blacks in America have more than shown we are entitled to our own rights, have contributed greatly to society, and should be treated equally as human beings. I would recommend anyone go to this museum to begin a journey that is both enlightened, inspiring, and pushing through all the negative things that has happened in our history.
by Jayla Williams
Black history and civil rights are a part of my daily life. This has been shown through the ability to go to various places freely, to having the freedom to pursue a higher education. It has resulted in playing an important role in my life. However, the impact didn’t have an up close and personal effect on me until I went on a trip with my Youth in Government advisor Mr. Cox. On the field trip that I took to the Equal Justice Initiative center and the Legacy Museum, I rediscovered how prominent my history was through slavery, education, and its aftermath.
Slavery, an act of holding a person with restricted freedom and forcing them to a level of labor against their will. Almost a century long tragedy, this act was forced upon African Americans and made them abandon their traditional customs of religion and family orientation. However, as times progress, many of today’s youth forget the impact of slavery and how it manifested into mass incarceration and institutionalized racism. These topics were shown to me at the Legacy Museum through the videos on prisoners who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other crimes. All in all, slavery became a topic that impacted me at an up close and personal level and reintroduced itself back into conversations that I participated in.
As a student who goes to a majority black high school, education plays an important role in my success. However, my school is a public school with a reputation of “failure” which resulted in a negative outlook on its productivity. During my trip to the Equal Justice Initiative Center, I gained a sense of humility and began to appreciate all of the struggle that past activists endured in order to create a better future for me and my peers. This has created new insight into my purpose of going to college and succeeding in life.
Even though today’s society doesn’t discuss past events in order to connect them to modern problems as well it should, that does not dismiss the fact that the problems are still there. At the EJI Memorial, I was reminded of just that. While looking at the county lynching lists, I discovered that the world is indeed still haunted at the tragic events. However, the question of what could I do to aid in the prevention of the tragic events. The answer became quite clear, I must go to school, know my history, support the movement of positivity, and finally, spread the word to my fellow peers on how they can participate as well.
From slavery to education to the aftermath of the civil rights movement, the subject of where to begin has become a promise I needed to keep. After my visit to both the EJI memorial and the Legacy Museum, I felt a sense of hope for a better future now that the world is aware of past tragedies involving the African American minority. I learned that my duty as a young black woman is too poor into the melting pot of bravery, knowledge, and service. All in all, my trip brought back my purpose and solidified my place in this world through showing me where I came from.
by Hope Smith
My trip to the civil rights monuments were interesting ones. During the trip we visited the Legacy Museum. One museum was outside and the other was inside. Both museums displayed the men and women who were lynched back in the 1900′ s.
The first museum, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, was outside. The first thing you will see is a whole lot of columns. My initial thought was “This isn’t very interesting, it’s just a bunch of names and columns”. Then I thought about it. This is a six acre plot of land with over hundreds of columns, each one with about 6-7 names on them. Thousands of our ancestors were listed and named and we wouldn’t even know it. It was a scary thought to think about.
If you believed the first museum was bad, the next one just gave you the chills. The next museum, The Legacy museum, was a lot more interactive. There were electronic panels that you could interact with and physically see the things that our ancestors went through. There were videos about their experiences. The one thing that haunted me was this photo gallery. Now this photo gallery was uncut, unfiltered, and uncensored. The pictures were shown in 15 second increments. They were lynching victims. I don’t want to say more, I don’t think I need to say more.
My overall experience taught me something. Always be grateful, because someone always has it worse than you. I would recommend everyone go. It’s definitely an eye opener.
by Jayvon Wright