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Syndic Literary Journal

The National Memorial  for Peace and Justice

∼ A Creative  Stroke of Organizing Genius!



by LeRoy Chatfield

 The  National Memorial for Peace and Justice  (aka The Lynching Museum) was  created by EJI as a  national public memorial for visitors to learn, to  remember, and to honor African Americans who were murdered by white supremacists, but it is more than that. It also serves as an interactive link to each of the 800 counties where these lynchings took place, whether in the North or the South.

Consider this.

The Memorial displays 800 steel columns with the name of each county along with the names of the victims  and the dates of their murder inscribed.  In addition,  there are 800 identical columns lying outside  in the park area waiting to be claimed by each county for whom it was made. These yet-to-be claimed columns establish a relationship with the counties where the victims lived with their families and loved ones.

In the beginning – the Memorial is not yet a year old – this relationship is one-sided,  it is one of outreach.   Without doubt, some counties will soon step forward to claim their memorial column and use it as an integral part of a county memorial to honor and remember their African American victims who were put to death because of white supremacy. 

Other counties will be slow to respond, but because of the existence and the prestige of the National Memorial, a  public challenge  has been issued to these counties and you can be sure that family members,  churches, civil rights  activists and organizations along with elected African American officials will insure the challenge for participation has been received by each county.  

The discussion at the county level of elected local government officials  will become a public issue inevitably leading to public hearings and citizen participation from churches, universities, school systems and students, civil rights groups, charitable organizations, civic organizations and many others. The final outcome will  result in  many more counties participating with the National Memorial by claiming their county’s steel column to create a suitable local monument.  No doubt some of these reluctant counties will become a modern day confrontation of racial intolerance and backlash but truth will out and prevail.

  Finally, some counties will refuse to participate at all,  refuse to take any responsibility,  refuse to acknowledge that any such lynchings took place, and even  if they did, why not let sleeping dogs lie, why open up old wounds and upset people?  Why bring this issue up 70 years later?  Whatever happened, happened,  just let it alone. You are stirring up trouble, you are an outsider, you do not understand. 

Of course we understand white supremacy, what you do not understand is  your time is up!

 You have heard of  the proverbial win-win outcome, but for those of you who are organizers. this national organizational drive sponsored by  EJI  will some day be  known as the “triple win” –  country, county and national memorial.

Gentle people – men, women and children of all persuasions and colors and origins –  the National Memorial for Peace and Justice will mobilize our nation to  learn and reflect about our history of white supremacy –  that  4400 African American citizens were lynched, mutilated, burned to death, parts of their body used as souvenirs, along with many others who were terrorized and  driven from their homes and their property seized  by organized mobs of white supremacists. 

I predict this unique  effort to promote racial conciliation and  make restitution to African Americans in the form of building county public monuments to teach,  to remember, and to honor the memory of  those who were  the victims of white supremacy   will some day become a major issue in a national presidential election campaign.  Not so sure? Mark my prediction.

Thank you, Equal Justice Initiative!


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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