*A memorial dedicated to more than 4,000 African-American victims of lynching opened up in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, featuring large blocks that hang from the ceiling baring the names of victims, categorized by the areas where they were murdered.
NPR reports that the National Memorial for Peace and Justice contains 800 blocks, which correspond to each county where at least one lynching occurred. The blocks hang from the ceiling to illustrate how the bodies of murdered African Americans were left hanging in public places as warnings to other black people.
Hailing from the Equal Justice Initiative, the project is meant to capture the “agony and the anguish” that the victims faced, the group’s director Bryan Stevenson told NPR.
“It’s people in distress,” Stevenson said. “And I don’t think we’ve actually done a very good job of acknowledging the pain and agony, the suffering, the humiliation, the complete denial of humanity that slavery created for black people on this continent.”
Lee Sentell, who directs Alabama’s department of tourism, added that the memorial is an in-your-face political message that other national monuments do not convey.
“Most museums are somewhat objective and benign,” Sentell says. “This one is not. This is aggressive, political.”
“It’s a part of American history that has never been addressed as much in your face as this story is being told.”
Stevenson acknowledges that the monument could cause “tension,” but says this is something Americans must reconcile with and not ignore.
“There’s a lot of conflict. There’s a lot of tension,” says Stevenson. “We’re dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, ‘Why would you talk about the difficult past?’ But everything is not wonderful.”