Ethics & Religion
May 3, 2018
National Lynching Museum
By Mike McManus
An astonishing new museum has opened in Montgomery, Alabama which
provides evidence there were about 4,400 lynchings of African Americans
in 800 counties across the South from the Civil War up to the Civil
Officially, it is called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (https://eji.org).
Informally, it is known as the National Lynching Museum. There are 800
weathered steel columns hanging from the roof - each of which represents
one of the counties where Negroes were lynched. Each lists the names of
those who could be identified, plus others whose names were unknown.
The columns, which are about the size of coffins, meet visitors at eye
level as they walk in. They are like the headstones that victims were
rarely given. As a visitor walks past the columns, the floor descends so
that they soon appear overhead.
Visitors can look through the columns, down to the Montgomery skyline,
dominated by the Capitol, which was once the Capitol of the Confederacy.
There could be no more appropriate place for the National Lynching
Museum. In fact, it stands on ground where slaves were once bought and
To its credit, the Montgomery Advertiser published a front page
editorial, the headline which was "Our Shame." Its opening words: "We
"On the day when people from across the globe come to our capital city
to consider the sordid history of slavery and lynching, and try to
reconcile the horrors of our past, the Montgomery Advertiser recognizes
its own shameful place in the history of these dastardly murderous
deeds," the editorial read.
"The Advertiser was careless in how it covered mob violence and the
terror foisted upon African-Americans from Reconstruction through the
"We dehumanized human beings. Too often we characterized lynching
victims as guilty before proved so - and often assumed they committed
I am unaware of any newspaper which so clearly acknowledged its sordid
culpability with lynchings. It deserves credit for belatedly
acknowledging its sordid role of encouraging this horrific violence
against African Americans.
In the 1950s I lived in Montgomery and delivered the Advertiser's sister
paper, The Alabama Journal. From 1955-57, I was proud to have increased
my route from 51 papers to 152 subscribing customers. I read the paper
every day, so that I could market it to potential customers.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a local pastor who inspired a boycott of city
buses which forced Negro passengers to sit at the back of the bus. I
remember seeing hundreds of African American maids walking to work -
rather than ride the buses. The boycott began Dec. 5, 1955 and lasted
until the bus company gave in a year later on Dec. 20, 1956, and removed
the racial line in the buses.
However, I do not remember stories in the Journal or Advertiser about
King's leadership of this movement - his first major civil rights
initiative. Clearly, his leadership was ignored.
One inspiring aspect of the new Museum honoring the 4,400 people who
were lynched - is that it has created a replica of each county's steel
column that lists the names of those who were lynched. The Museum will
give the replica to every county whose leaders ask for one.
For example, there were 23 Negroes lynched in Iberia Parish (County),
Louisiana. It was the fifth largest number lynched among the state's
counties. I suggest that the elected leaders of Iberia Parish ask for
its replica of the column in the Museum, that it could place in front of
the county courthouse to educate current residents.
I asked Don Shoopman, the editor of The Daily Iberian, which publishes
my column, what he thinks the reaction would be of Iberia's leaders to
such an initiative. He told me, "I think it will be well received by our
Iberia Parish government."
That is what should happen in each of the 800 counties where there were
It is time to educate the descendants of those who carried out lynchings
- what happened in their community.
It will be an important learning experience.
As the Montgomery Advertiser put it, "We were wrong."
Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and
a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to
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