MONTGOMERY, AL (OSBORNE) -- A new memorial has opened in Alabama that pays tribute to the victims of lynching, including more than 230 people murdered in Tennessee.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery this past week. More than 800 steel columns hang from the memorial’s ceiling. Each column represents a U.S. county where one or more of the 4000 plus lynchings took place between 1877 and 1950.
There’s a column for Davidson County where six people were lynched. There’s also a column for Williamson County where five people were murdered and Robertson County were eleven died.
Dr. Fitzhugh Brundage at the University of North Carolina has been studying lynching for 30 years. He says these were no simple murders, but very often public events attended by hundreds of people and meant to send a clear message.
“Not only had this one person been executed, but anyone like him or her would meet a similar fate, and that usually conveyed a very powerful message of racial animus.”
Dr. Brundage says African Americans were lynched most often, but hundreds of people of Mexican ancestry were also killed.
Brundage notes there is one positive aspect to Tennessee’s lynching history. It was the Memphis based African-American reporter Ida B. Wells who first dared question the practice.
“Then went on to wage both and national and indeed even and international campaign against lynching. She was eventually, essentially exiled from Memphis and moved to Chicago.”
Here are lynching history resources if you'd like to learn more: