Imagine you are a black person (which shouldn’t be very hard if, like me, you actually are black). Now, imagine you had a black relative living between 1877–1950, coldly suspended by the neck from the branch of a tree, high above the ground, on display in front of a disgustingly captivated white audience. The ivory crowd is cheering at the gruesome scene, happy to be exhibiting a “lesson” for other blacks who dared to cross petty lines, that if tested by their white counterparts, would only result in a slap on the wrist. This is not a scene out of a horror movie, it was real life, and Bryan Stevenson is on a mission to make sure we all remember it actually happened.
Stevenson, a lawyer, author, and founder/Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), believes that the history of lynching in America has been swept under the rug for decades, and needs to be lifted back up to the surface. He thinks that such a major, terrible, racial injustice in American history being unrecognized, is part of the reason it’s taking us so long to heal.
I couldn’t agree more.
Fighting racial injustices has been Stevenson’s life work, and he has created a bold, unique way to tackle the immense, uncomfortable, somber hangings of blacks in the USA. Teaming up with tech titan, Google, his organization, EJI, has created a digital experience that faces our dark past head-on, carrying the point-blank title, Lynching In America.
At its core, Lynching in America is a website, but as you navigate through each page, you discover elements of podcasting, documentaries, data examinations, and, of course, education. All of those parts are presented in a way that urges the user to explore the space through and through, for possibly hours.
Maybe it goes without saying, but this is not a “light” experience. The color scheme of the immersive site is dim, using a lot of black and gray. When a burst of color does seep through, it is often a symbolic red. The bold color is most present within the “data” portion of the website, which uses a map of the United States to mark locations where reported racial terror lynchings took place—going as far as even featuring stories of individual victims.
Is Lynching in America heartbreaking? Definitely. Is it an embarrassing part of US history to revisit? For sure. Is it uncomfortable? You know it. Is it necessary? You better believe it.
As with any setback, how do you comeback without facing and assessing every ounce of the ugly truth? Lynching in America is an imperative, innovative project that rightfully recognizes a despicable time in American history, to help us all, more competently, move on—and never forget.
Dive into Lynching in America at LynchingInAmerica.eji.org.
Lynching in America (2017)
Creator Equal Justice Initiative with support from Google