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  • The EJI, which raised more than $20 million in private donations to fund the project, relied on accounts found in research materials, videography, exhibits on lynching.

    The EJI, which raised more than $20 million in private donations to fund the project, relied on accounts found in research materials, videography, exhibits on lynching. | Photo: EJI

Published 29 April 2018

Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama, one of the two largest slave-owning states in the United States. 

As the southern state of Alabama marked Confederate Memorial Day this week,  Equal Justice Initiative, EJI, an Alabama-based non profit opened the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, at the site of a former warehouse in Montgomery, Alabama, which housed the imprisoned Black slaves, commemorating the history of racial inequality and economic injustice suffered by Black people. 

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Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama, one of the two largest slave-owning states in the United States. 

The location of the 11,000-square-foot facility serves an important role as it is situated "between a historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were trafficked during the height of the domestic slave trade," EJI's website noted. 

The museum uses technology to dramatize the enslavement of Black people, charts the trajectory of racial terror lynchings, legalized racial segregation and racial hierarchy in the U.S. to create the narrative from the perspective of those enslaved. 

The EJI which raised more than US$20 million in private donations to fund the project, relied on first-hand accounts found in research materials, videography, exhibits on lynching and recently composed content on segregation to explore the history of racial inequality and its relationship to a range of contemporary issues from mass incarceration to police violence.  

"I'm a descendant of three lynching victims," Toni Battle, who drove from San Francisco for Thursday's opening, told The Associated Press. "I wanted to come and honor them and also those in my family that couldn't be here."

"Racial subordination was codified and enforced by violence in the era of Jim Crow and segregation, as the nation and its leaders allowed black people to be burdened, beaten, and marginalized throughout the 20th century," Equal Justice Initiative noted on its website.  

A National Memorial for Peace and Justice featuring over 800 steel monuments, located a couple of blocks from the museum, bears the names of lynching victims throughout the country. While creating the memorial, the organizers discovered the names of 4,400 black people who were lynched or died in racial killings between 1877 and 1950. 

"Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” EJI Director Bryan Stevenson noted, according to NBC News. "This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice." 

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