When you think of Montgomery, Ala., what comes to mind?
Maybe the bus boycott in the 1950s that, in many ways, kick-started the Civil Rights Movement. Or maybe the fact that, for a time, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, had his headquarters there. Or that it was the destination of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights protest marches.
Or maybe you just think of it as the capitol of Alabama.
One thing that probably doesn't come to mind is the possibility that Montgomery is soon to be the site of a national monument to the victims of lynchings. But it's true, and it's hard to imagine a better place in which to tell the brutal story of the more than 4,000 lynchings that happened in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950.
As the Atlantic story to which I've linked you notes, these were "black Americans hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, beaten, or otherwise murdered by white mobs."
Often with no legal ramifications.
The story notes that the new memorial's design comprises 816 suspended columns, each representing one of the counties in the U.S. where at least one documented lynching took place.
If you're a regular reader of my blog, you may recall that this is not the first time I've dealt with the subject of lynching. In this 2011 post, for instance, I wrote about the work on lynching being done by Angela D. Sims, a St. Paul School of Theology teacher.
That work has turned into a book called Lynched: The Power of Memory in a Culture of Terror. It's well worth your time to get a copy and read it.
In the midst of fights over whether to remove or destroy monuments honoring the Confederacy and its soldiers, I'm really glad that lynching, a disastrous aftermath of the Civil War, finally is getting the historical attention necessary to understand how people of faith could countenance and even commit such murderous revenge.
If we are to understand ourselves as fully as possible, we must understand what leads us to the kind of white supremacist thinking that fueled America's sorrowful history of lynching.
(The artist's illustration above of the new memorial is from here on the website of the sponsor, the Equal Justice Institute.)
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ANOTHER CALL FOR RELIGIOUS LITERACY
What can be done to undo the bigotry at the heart of President Trump's several attempts to institute a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.? The author of this piece suggests religious literacy is one answer. And she's right. When we don't operate from a position of ignorance and fear we let truth speak for itself.
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P.S.: I rarely get a chance to write much about the Baha'i faith, but this week adherents have been celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha'is founder, Bahá’u’lláh, born in Tehran in 1817. You can read about some of that here. Just FYI, one of the more beautiful Baha'i temples is just outside Chicago in Wilmette, Ill. See a photo of it and read about it here.