Sites of Violence, Sites of Healing
Today we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, both located in Montgomery, Alabama. We were warned prior that this would be a hard day, and I thought I was prepared, but immediately upon deboarding the bus the images of enslaved people confronted me, and I realized I was not emotionally prepared.
A two-hour tour of the Legacy Museum got me unfortunately only halfway through the museum, but in those 2 hours I learned more than in my many years of history classes. I embarrassingly admit that my knowledge of slavery was minimal, thinking that Africans were brought only to the South and only for cotton. I now know that enslaved Black men, women and children were trafficked to South America and up and down the US eastern seaboard for building railroads, draining snakes and mosquitoe infested swamps, brick laying, ship building, fisheries, rum production and working plantations. America was built on their unpaid, enslaved, tortured backs.
The story of torture, inhumanity and cruelty is a thread that is woven vividly through every exhibit that represents the Black experience in America from slavery to current-day systemic racism. The irony of the museum beginning with Africans behind bars and ending with African Americans behind bars is the driving point of the museum: slavery to mass incarceration and the system that allow it to happen.
The information I learned at the Legacy Museum transcended to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and helped me tie together and answer many of the questions I had this week, specifically about laws “segregating love.”
On a personal note, at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, I saw someone there with my last name, Abe Thomson. There are not many Thomsons in the US compared to Thompsons. Who is Abe? Could he be? I attached the newspaper article I found online about his lynching…