The Equal Justice Initiative
"For the hanged and beaten,
For the shot, drowned and burned,
For the tortured, tormented and terrorized,
We will remember.
With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice,
With courage because peace requires bravery,
With persistence because justice is a constant struggle,
With faith because we shall overcome."
-Equal Justice Initiative
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
In order to memorialize the African American victims of racial terror lynching the Equal Justice Initiative also introduced their Community Remembrance Project. It encourages US communities to remember the victims of racial terror lynching that occured in their counties. The do this by collecting soil from the site of the lynching, and by erecting a historical marker to remember the victim, whose life was taken in this brutal way.
The CCRP (Colorado Community Remembrance Project) began its work by forming the a Denver/Limon coalition in 2018 to memorialize the lynching of Preston "John" Porter, Jr. and to advance the work of the Equal Justice Initiative, Which opened the Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama in April of that year.
EJI's Community Remembrance Project
Racial Terror and Lynching In America
Preston Porter, Jr. was one of thousands of Black people lynched in the United States. Torn from their families; cruelly killed; they were targeted by White terrorists who aimed to intimidate all Black people, enforce racial segregation, and reinforce White supremacy. After the Civil War (1861-1865), fierce resistance to equal rights for African Americans triggered a wide-spread terror campaign against women, men and children accused of violating social customs, engaging in interracial relationships, or committing crimes.
For decades, racial lynching persisted as the most lethal, public, and notorious means of dehumanizing, degrading, and terrorizing Black Americans. Sadistic mobs, sometimes numbering in the thousands, tortured, mutilated, beat, hanged, burned, and otherwise killed Black citizens. Sheriffs and other officials usually allowed lynchers to act without fear of prosecution for their crimes. Those who resisted lynching, particularly in the South, risked retaliation. Not recorded by name and denied proper burial; many victims remain unknown.
"We cannot understand our present moment without recognizing the lasting damage caused by allowing white supremacy and racial hierarchy to prevail during Reconstruction."
-Bryan Stevenson, Director of EJI
The Period of Reconstruction
In one of Bryan Stevenson's TED talks, he points out that the idea of celebrating the end of the Civil War, Slavery, and the introduction of the 13th amendment, creates a distraction from acknowledging our true history. Many believe that after these changes occurred, things got much better for the African American community, which could not be further from the truth. The 12 years after slavery ended was in fact the most bloody, and horrific period of terrorism for the African American community.
In the newest report done by EJI, called Reconstruction in America, they have documented nearly 2000 additional lynchings between 1865-1876, which raises the total number of documented lynchings to 6,500.
"In the American criminal justice system, wealth-not culpability- shapes outcomes."
- Equal Justice Initiative
Criminal Justice Reform
In addition to EJI's work around raising awareness of the legacy of lynching. They also provide legal representation to people on death row or serving death in prison sentences, as well as children who have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Still to this day, kids as young as 8 can be charged as an adult and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Up until 2005 children were still sentenced to death and executed in the U.S. and only in the last decade, the Supreme Court limited the death in prison sentences for children.
Because of Bryan Stevenson and the work of EJI, on May 17th 2010 the supreme court in Graham v. Florida barred life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 and under. "The Court did not ban all juvenile life-without-parole sentences, but held that requiring sentencers to consider “children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change” should make such sentences “uncommon.”" -EJI.org
For more information visit www.EJI.org