Google.org, the philanthropic brother of Google, has partnered with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to create an interactive site to show the history of lynchings in the United States. EJI is a racial nonprofit organization that “challenges racial and economic injustice.” According to this new site, more than 4,000 blacks were officially reported lynched between the years of 1877 and 1950 – a span of 73 years. That is an average of about 54 people killed every year. We can’t even begin the guess the number of unreported lynchings during this time frame.
The Lynching in America site includes an interactive map that lists how many lynchings were reported in each state; in some cases, individual counties. It also highlights some of these “public punishments” through interviews with descendants of victims and pictures of where the lynchings happened. In addition to the lynching study, the site collaborated with Google on a short film that chronicles a lynching victim’s grandchildren visiting the site where their grandfather was lynched in 1912 – for writing a note to a white woman. It is the first time anyone in their family has gone back to that area.
According to the site, EJI’s goals are as follows:
In order to heal the deep wounds of our present, we must face the truth of our past … These lynchings were public acts of racial terrorism, intended to instill fear in black communities … The effects of racial terror lynchings are still felt today.
With nooses still being found today as symbols of hate, this history is still very much relative, especially to the Black Lives Matter movement. That movement is, in part, what started the collaboration between EJI and Google. The founder of EJI, Bryan Stevenson, stated,
Google started a racial justice fund after black Googlers and others expressed a desire to do something in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting. Google enthusiastically supported EJI’s work but also wanted to collaborate on a project, which is how this interactive website was born and raised.
The initial map on the interactive site shows the United States with swaths of red indicating where lynchings were reported. Visitors can click on each individual state to see the actual number of lynchings that were reported there.
In addition to collaborating with EJI on the new site, Google.org has donated a $1 million grant for the From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration Museum, which is scheduled to open in Montgomery, Alabama next year. This museum is the brainchild of the nonprofit organization. It intends to show parallels between slavery and the racial disparity of the justice system.
The hatred that led to these public lynchings is still rearing its ugly head. There is extreme racial bias in our justice system. This bias has led to excessive sentences and police violence against young black people. African Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated in state prisons than their white counterparts. This isn’t rhetoric, it’s just the horrible truth. Even though lynching is not used today to set an example of power, that example is still being set by the injustices of the justice system.
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Watch the short film found on the site to see how our history affects our present: