‘Legacy of Lynching: Racial Terror in America’ Opens July 26

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Shirah Dedman, Phoebe Dedman, and Luz Myles visiting Shreveport, Louisiana, where in 1912 their relative Thomas Miles, Sr., was lynchedThe Brooklyn Museum, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and Google,  are presenting the exhibition The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America.

On view from July 26 through September 3, the exhibition presents EJI’s research on the history of racial violence in the United States and its continuing impact on our nation to this day.

The exhibition will include video stories featuring descendants of lynching victims, a short documentary, photographs, an interactive map presenting EJI’s research, and informational videos.

The content on display in the Museum can also be viewed online, through an interactive platform that EJI recently launched, with support from Google, that digitizes their research on the more than four thousand racial terror lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950.

A team of Brooklyn Museum curators selected more than a dozen artworks from its collections by African American artists whose practices respond to racism in the United States in several forms. Artists include Sanford Biggers, Mark Bradford, Elizabeth Catlett, Melvin Edwards, Theaster Gates, Rashid Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Jacob Lawrence, Glenn Ligon, and Kara Walker.

The exhibition also presents materials from the Museum Library and Archives on the institution’s support for efforts against lynching. They include a 1935 pledge by Museum Director Philip N. Youtz supporting the NAACP’s anti-lynching art exhibition as well as documents from a benefit art auction and exhibition for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that the Museum hosted in 1963. More recently, the Museum presented Bryan Stevenson in a conversation with death row exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton, in 2016, as part of the ongoing program “States of Denial: The Illegal Incarceration of Women, Children, and People of Culture,” organized by Elizabeth A. Sackler and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The Museum has also held numerous exhibitions on related topics, including Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, Agitprop!, and Sanford Biggers, among others, including We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85, currently on view.

The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America will include a public program featuring Bryan Stevenson, artists Glenn Ligon and Sanford Biggers, and Elizabeth Alexander, poet and Director of Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation, on Tuesday, July 25, at 7 pm. Admission is $25.

By highlighting the historical impact of systemic racism in our country, the exhibition is conceived to raise awareness for EJI’s forthcoming Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. Opening in 2018, the memorial will be the country’s first ever national monument to commemorate the more than four thousand black men, women, and children who were lynched and murdered between 1877 and 1950. EJI also plans to open an accompanying racial justice museum that will trace a direct line between slavery and mass incarceration.

To approach this topic respectfully, the exhibition focuses on personal stories. It does not contain explicit photos. In order to appropriately acknowledge the subject of racial violence with the utmost care and sensitivity, the Museum will provide a space outside the gallery for visitors to explore reading material and to reflect.

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Stevenson is a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 130 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation. Mr. Stevenson is also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.

Founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, EJI is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons.

Photo: Shirah Dedman, Phoebe Dedman, and Luz Myles visiting Shreveport, Louisiana, where in 1912 their relative Thomas Miles, Sr., was lynched, courtesy Rog Walker and Bee Walker for Equal Justice Initiative.

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