The Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, AL, has documented over 4,400 African Americans who were lynched between 1877 and 1950 in at least twenty American states.
Established by Bryan Stevenson, attorney and author of the book Just Mercy, the EJI is known for its memorials to the victims of lynching—the Legacy Museum, the Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the new Legacy Pavilion.
But its work goes far beyond memorializing; its statement of purpose says, “The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
Both those goals are essential to restructuring the racial divide and systemic inequality of the American political and justice systems, and are made even more urgent in recent days, and the nation has undergone widespread turmoil over police killings of George Floyd and numerous other unarmed African American citizens.
Beginning in 2018, the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project, a partnership of over twenty community-based area organizations led by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, has been working to localize the EJI’s work.
The first goal of the project is to develop and place a memorial monument in Asheville in remembrance of the three individuals thus far who have been identified as being lynched in Buncombe County, as well as a soil collection that reflects the history of lynching and modern-day challenges of racial inequality. The second component will be to more accurately reflect the history of racial and economic injustice and inequity in the county; provide safe spaces for healing from the silent trauma surrounding racial violence; foster local conversations and foster community healing; and provide events that utilize truth telling, educational programming, and reconciliation that lead to transformational narratives.
The Buncombe Community Remembrance Project is governed by a steering committee of representatives from the participating organizations and community stakeholders. Dr. Joseph Fox, Vice President of the MLK Association, is the Remembrance Project coordinator, and Ron Katz has spearheaded the effort to inform the public about the initiative.
Volunteers from the community—stakeholders, advocates, activists, and interested parties, are welcome to participate and support the Buncombe County Remembrance Project.
For more information or to volunteer, please contact Dr. Joseph Fox by email to email@example.com.