An American museum offers the neglected story about the US and slavery

Monitoring Desk

The museum aims to raise awareness of the US’ chronic discrimination against black people by taking its visitors on a journey through time.

The statues of brutally chained and forced men, women and children appear as if they were washed ashore by simulated waves, symbolizing the estimated over two million African people whose slave trade ended up in a watery grave in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the entrance view of the Legacy Museum, which opens on Friday in the US’ Alabama city.

The picture shows an exhibit about the people killed on the journey from Africa to slave ports in America at the Legacy Museum (AP)
The picture shows an exhibit about the people killed on the journey from Africa to slave ports in America at the Legacy Museum (AP) (Juan Carlos Castaneda / AP)

 Experimentally, upon arrival, you are boarding a ship that takes you back in time and crossing the Atlantic while witnessing the suffering of slaves amidst the period of the transatlantic slave trade.

The museum aims to trace back its visitors to a direct link between the racist past of the United States and today’s modern inequalities that was revealed more loudly with George Floyd’s vociferous phrase: ”I can’t breathe!”.

The African-American man was murdered by a white police officer in May 2020, triggering widespread protests against police brutality and racism.

“It’s a museum about the history of America, with a focus on the legacy of slavery,” said Bryan Stevenson, the head of Equal Justice Initiative, a civil rights organization in Alabama state. 

The museum is created by the Equal Justice Initiative that focuses on the legacy of slavery in America and is placed in a building where African captives were once held before being sold as slaves.

Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows people looking at an exhibit at the Legacy Museum (AFP)
Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows people looking at an exhibit at the Legacy Museum (AFP) (AFP / AFP)

The first thing that welcomes you in front of the building is a sign that reads ”You are standing on the site where enslaved Black people were forced to labour in bondage” 

According to Stevenson, the purpose of the museum is to educate and confront people with the sides of American history that are not frequently taught. 

“The only way we can make progress in this country is if we engage both our minds and our hearts in a serious commitment to truth and justice to eliminating racial injustice,” he said.

Entering a dark hallway, the visitors encounter images of talking slaves. The slaves are projected onto the walls behind the cage bars, talking to the visitors standing in front of them. 

Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows an exhibit at the Legacy Museum
Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows an exhibit at the Legacy Museum (AFP / AFP)

The first is a woman pleading for children taken from her. In the other, the two children are nestled together crying out “Momma, momma… Have you seen our mother?” 

One wing is devoted to the thousands of victims of lynchings of Black Americans, which occurred between 1877 and 1950. 

As visitors walk through, they see a wall lined with cans of dirt obtained from the sites where lynching victims were murdered.

Another wing of the museum invites the visitors to take a Jim Crow laws era literacy test in order to register the vote. The era when the state and local laws legalized racial segregation towards coloured people in the Southern United States.

Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows an exhibit that reads ''Slavery is the next thing to hell'' at the Legacy Museum
Image courtesy of the Equal Justice Initiative, shows an exhibit that reads ”Slavery is the next thing to hell” at the Legacy Museum (AFP / AFP)

The custodians are aspiring to raise the national reckoning on race and racism in America, which has become more intense since the murder of George Floyd. 

”One of the things we say is that the purpose of the museum is to create a society where the children of our children are not burdened by this history of racial inequality and are free to move throughout their lives without any presumptions being made, based on their colour,” said Stevenson.

“But to get there, we’ve got some work to do and I hope this inspires people to do that work.”

Courtesy: TRTWorld and agencies

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