Civil Conversations: Day 2, Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery

More stories from McKenna Dirks (She/Her)


EJI provides research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of criminal justice reform. © 2022 McKenna Dirks

Located on the site of a former warehouse where Black people were forced to labor in Montgomery, Ala. the Legacy Museum uses different types of interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to inform visitors on slave trade and racial terrorism. 

The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in state jails and prisons. 

As visitors make their way through the dark parts of American history, graphics and videos are displayed to educate and inform on the kidnapping, terrorization, segregation and incarceration of Black people. 

12 million Black people were kidnapped into the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 9 million were terrorized by the threat of lynching, 10 million were experiencing citizen segregation and 8 million were incarcerated under criminal control. 

Slavery in the United States began in the 1600s when 20 enslaved African American’s were brought to Jamestown, Va. with the main focus being sugar, rice, tobacco and cotton production. This would go on for more than two centuries. 

The museum honored those who were lost to lynching during this time, and a lynching victim’s parting words remain for the public to reflect on. 

“Tell my people to go West, there is no justice for them here,” Thomas Moss said, who was lynched in Memphis, Tenn. in 1892. 

Jars of different soils were displayed by the Community Remembrance Project to honor racial terror lynching victims — participants go to lynching sites and collect the soil to place in jars. 

Years before, a 19-year-old Black woman by the name of Celia was sexually assaulted by her master for years, until the night of June 23, 1855. As her master approached her cabin to sexually assault her again, she took things into her own hands and fatally clubbed him and openly told a reporter, “the Devil got into me.” Celia was convicted of murder and hung on Dec. 21, 1855. 

To end the museum tour on a lighter note, visitors were led to a reflection room that displayed many members of the community that helped combat racial inequality in the United States during the Civil Rights Movement. 

A quote by Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of former slaves and Black educator, said, “If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs.”

Dirks can be reached at [email protected]