The brutal new memorial to the souths dark side has left some in Alabama frustrated and angry at its insistence on confronting the past
Black men were lynched for standing around, for annoying white girls, for failing to call a policeman mister. Those are just a few of the horrific stories on display at a new national memorial to lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama.
One mile away, another historical monument tells a very different tale about the American south: the First White House of the Confederacy celebrates the life of renowned American patriot Jefferson Davis, who served as the president of the Confederate states, while making virtually no mention of the hundreds of black people he and his family enslaved.
The contradictions of Montgomerys historical narratives were on full display this week as thousands of tourists and progressive activists flocked to the city to mark the opening of the countrys first memorial to lynching victims while some locals quietly seethed, saying they resented the new museum for dredging up the past and feared it would incite anger and backlash within black communities.
Its going to cause an uproar and open old wounds, said Mikki Keenan, a 58-year-old longtime Montgomery resident, who was eating lunch at a southern country-style restaurant a mile from the memorial. Local residents, she said, feel its a waste of money, a waste of space and its bringing up bullshit.
It keeps putting the emphasis on discrimination and cruelty, chimed in her friend, who asked not to be named for fear that her child would disapprove of her remarks. The memorial, she added, could spark violence.
The angry and in some cases blatantly racist reactions to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and accompanying Legacy Museum provided a window into some white Americans deep resistance to confronting the nations brutal history of racial violence, from slavery to mass incarceration.
While celebrities and civil rights icons lauded the memorial as a powerful symbol of Americas shame and a turning point toward healing, some conservatives in Alabama rolled their eyes at the project, saying they were more concerned with saving Confederate monuments, now under threat from leftwing activists.
Alabamas Republican governor, Kay Ivey, wasnt present at the memorial launch, but did release a video promoting her efforts to preserve Confederate monuments a week prior.