Saturday, February 2, 2019

Lynching Memorial in Montgomery Alabama

Members of the onePULSE Foundation Board flew into Montgomery, Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, commonly known as the Lynching Memorial. Pam Schwartz and I flew in the same day, but on a separate flight. While the Board explored the museum, I walked over to the memorial to sketch.

Entrance to the memorial costs $5 and there are two metal detectors for security. Video isn't allowed but still photography is fine, although they don't want people taking selfies in front of the sensitive  statues of enslaved people. Since we were only in town for a day, I had a change of underwear in my artist stool and I hoped I wouldn't have to drag it out while going through the metal detectors. My sketch pad should get through fine.

I was surprised when security told me that I would have to leave my art bag behind, although I was told I could take out anything I needed. I said I would need my sketchbook and then I was informed that sketching was not allowed. I would also have to leave my art stool, so I faced the prospect of standing for several hours as I sketched, which can be exhausting. I decided to turn on my heel, get my refund, and leave.

I hiked around the block until I found this view of the memorial from an abandoned empty lot across the street. About half way into this sketch another security guard walked down the steps and across the street from me. I stiffened up, thinking he might try and stop me from sketching from this public spot. The opposite happened. He apologized and said I could could sit inside on one of the granite benches if I wanted to. I thanked him for the offer but I was already deeply committed to this sketch. I also had shade from a tree on the empty lot which was needed. There were few trees inside the memorial property.

This is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence. The memorial uses sculpture, art, and design to contextualize racial terror. The site includes a memorial square with 800 six-foot monuments to symbolize thousands of racial terror lynching victims in the United States and the counties and states where this terrorism took place. These rust colored monuments hang from the ceiling. The Equal Justice Initiative is inviting counties across the country to claim their monuments and install them in their permanent homes in the counties they represent.

The streets of Montgomery, Alabama are strangely deserted. I got the feeling like I was the last man on earth walking the quiet streets. When a car did rush by it seemed out of place. The city wears its history of hate and racism on its sleeve with pride.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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