In early June, Jennifer and I visited the newly opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. Both the memorial and the museum are part of the Equal Justice initiative, a nonprofit that, according to their website is “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”
The memorial on a hill overlooking Montgomery memorializes the nearly 5,000 African-Americans that were lynched in the United States from 1870 to 1950. The museum traces the history of racism experienced by millions of African-Americans within the United States. Visiting both were stunning, sobering and fascinating.
I have just finished JUST MERCY — A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson’s powerful New York Times bestseller chronicles the inherent inhumanity within the American justice system, especially poor Blacks in the South.
JUST MERCY explores a number of devastating cases, including children as young as fourteen facing life imprisonment, and scores of people on death row – mostly poor, and mostly black – who have been unfairly convicted. For 30 years Stevenson, a Harvard Law School graduate, and his team have worked to help free men and women, largely African-American and poor, who were unfairly sentenced to prison, some of them facing the death penalty.
Stevenson is a gentle, empathic man, a fearless attorney for the poor and underrepresented and a great writer. He takes you right inside his cases. I was quickly and totally swept up in the story. The book made me angry, sad, and relieved, especially when justice was served, and sadly, it wasn’t nearly as much as it should have been.
After I read the book I said to myself, “I would love to meet Bryan Stevenson.”
By the way, Stevenson’s outstanding 2012 TED Talk garnered him one of the longest standing ovations in the history of TED Talks.
Both JUST MERCY and the TED TALK are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!