America has done little to recognize the scars left by the long, violent history of slavery, racial discrimination, and lynching. There is a need to not only uncover the forgotten histories of racial injustice, but to create platforms for such stories to be properly recognized and remembered. Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), have spent the past decade collecting the stories of the victims of racial terror lynchings, identifying the need to confront this legacy of violence. MASS Design Group partnered with EJI to design the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Before construction of the memorial began, MASS designed a community-based initiative to collect soil from the sites where lynchings occurred, contributing to a growing call for racial justice.
The memorial honors over 4,000 victims of lynching, placing their names across 800 corten steel monuments. Each monument represents a US county where lynchings occurred. Visitors enter the memorial’s central structure via an inner walkway that lowers in elevation, changing the viewer’s relationship to the monuments suspended above at a constant height.
The memorial grounds feature sculptures depicting scenes of slavery, civil rights, and contemporary racial injustice. Outside the main structure, 800 duplicate monuments lie in rows. Counties are invited to retrieve their monument, and in doing so openly address a violent chapter of their history.
The memorial site is on one of Montgomery’s highest points, and is geographically positioned such that the structure points towards landmarks of civil rights history within Montgomery. Devoted to a process of truth-telling, reconciliation, and healing, the memorial opened in April 2018 and received 300,000 visitors within six months. The memorial contributes to a larger national demand for racial reckoning; one that recently saw the passage of a Senate bill in December 2018 that made lynching a federal crime.
Partner: The Equal Justice Initiative
Project Team: Architectural Design: Alicia Ajayi, Caroline Alsup, Sierra Bainbridge, Justin Brown, Jessi Flynn, Emily Goldenberg, Kordae Henry, Michael Murphy, Martin Pavlinic, Alan Ricks, Adam Saltzman; from MASS Design Group
Landscape Design: MASS Design Group
General Contractor: Doster Construction Company
Structural Engineer: NOUS Engineering
Civil Engineer: Pilgreen Engineering
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Engineer: Mazzetti
Lighting: Lam Partners
Graphic Design, Signage, and Wayfinding: Small Stuff
Code Consultant and Fire Protection: Howe Engineers
Water Feature: Delta Fountains
Specifications: Robert Schwartz and Associates
Artist Contributors: Dana King, Hank Willis Thomas, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo