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Alabama Museum Aims To Shine A Light On America's History Of Racial Terror

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A new memorial opens in Montgomery, Ala., today honoring the 4,000-plus victims of lynchings that took place between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the civil rights movement in this country. Bryan Stevenson directs the Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit group that created the memorial.

BRYAN STEVENSON: We've identified over 800 counties in the United States where lynchings take place. And on each county, we engraved the names of the victims.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, these monuments are 6-foot-tall steel blocks, some of which hang overhead, reminiscent of the way that lynching victims were hung. Stevenson says the themes still resonate today.

STEVENSON: I think it's because we haven't talked honestly about our history that we still struggle with racial inequality. That legacy has evolved from slavery to lynching to segregation to many of the problems that we see today in our criminal justice system.

MARTIN: Stevenson says he hopes the memorial will inspire visitors to take action.

STEVENSON: That's what I'm hoping is that people will come to places like this, be moved and be thinking about what they're going to do to make sure this never happens again.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLIE HOLIDAY'S "STRANGE FRUIT")

MARTIN: Brian Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, which created the lynching memorial in Montgomery, Ala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.