TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — After decades of cruelty, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) left a historical mark in Tuscaloosa County to remember a part of African American history that is sometimes forgotten.
Although the documented racial lynching deaths of 8 black men took place less than a hundred years ago – the historic marker project sought to acknowledge the injustice and bring closure to a community scarred by the racial terror of their ancestors past.
“We identified over 360 lynchings here in the state of Alabama, and we were concerned that when you drive through this state, when you drive through this community – there is nothing that really acknowledges that history of terror,” said Bryan Stevenson, the director of the EJI.
As part of their community remembrance project – the Equal Justice Initiative unveiled an historical marker that memorialized 8 black men that were victims of racial lynchings between 1884 and 1940.
“Up north it’s a different way of learning about slavery and civil rights and coming down here and actually standing on ground where this actually happened is very touching and very humbling,” said Mekya Jordan, a first-year student at the University of Alabama.
“When you’re in the place where history happened you just feel it and see it in a different way,” said Naomi Kadish, a visiting junior from the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s very refreshing to experience – often times we can hide behind our past and we can not acknowledge it and it sometimes washes away the victims and we don’t get the progression or the healing that we need,” said Farrah Sanders, a first-year student at the University of Alabama.
After the unveiling – a memorial service was held at First African Baptist Church, it highlighted the need to not only remember but to educate, “that our history is our guide to our future, and if we can take a hold of that power and harness that opportunity we can make many more strides,” said Darnell Sharperson, also a first-year student at the University of Alabama.
Although the EJI acknowledged at least 360 lynching deaths in the state of Alabama between 1884 and 1940 – they said that doesn’t account for the hundreds, if not thousands of victims whose bodies may have never been found.