The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening Thursday, stands high on a hillside overlooking downtown Montgomery, Ala. Beyond the buildings you can see the winding Alabama River and hear the distant whistle of a train — the nexus that made the city a hub for the domestic slave trade.
And that’s where the experience begins as visitors encounter a life-size sculpture in bronze of six people in rusting shackles, including a mother with a baby in her arms.
“You see the agony and the anguish and the suffering in these figures,” says Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit legal advocacy group that created the memorial.
“It’s people in distress,” Stevenson says. “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.”
Stevenson serves as a tour guide through the somber space — which remembers the nation’s history of racial terrorism, representing a journey from slavery to the period after the Civil War and before the civil rights movement.
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