In the South, New Monuments Look to Honor Victims of Lynching
The local branch of the NAACP here has county officials’ backing to put up a memorial to lynching victims, possibly at the courthouse about a block away from where a Confederate monument still stands—its fate uncertain.
Many communities across the South, still mired in battles over taking down Confederate statues, are proposing new monuments be erected nearby or in their place. These markers, which honor victims of racial violence during segregation, are gaining approval at the same time the future of some Jim Crow era monuments remains unknown, stalled by political or legal fights.
“What we are trying to do is tell the real truth,” DeKalb County NAACP President Teresa Hardy said of the new memorial, which she hoped would be a slab marker including the names of people lynched in her county.
Lynching memorials or markers also are being considered in Birmingham, Ala., Tallahassee, Fla., and other places with public Confederate monuments and markers. Many groups advocating new memorials to lynching victims are launching efforts inspired in part by the Montgomery, Ala.-based National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which documents lynching victims throughout American history. Since it opened in 2018, about 300,000 people have visited the memorial, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, the nonprofit that created it.
Some critics of Confederate monument removal say putting up new monuments is fine, as long as they are historically accurate.
“I’m all for putting up new monuments,” said Douglas Jones, a Nashville attorney who has represented Confederate heritage groups in lawsuits over monuments and markers. “But don’t get your eraser out. That’s when I have a problem.”
Some who consider Confederate monuments racist have questioned whether putting up new markers about lynching reinforces notions of black people as victims.
“I’m not sure how I feel about this landscape where we have monuments to white triumph and next to it or down the road you have monuments to black victimization,” said Nina Silber, a Boston University history professor.