Soil Collection for Memorial for Peace and Justice
Can we design a process of healing?
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has documented more than 4,400 racial terror lynchings in twelve Southern states between Reconstruction and World War II, in one of the most comprehensive investigations to date. Lynching profoundly impacted race relations in the United States, fueling mass migration from the South and creating a fearful environment where racial subordination and segregation was maintained for decades.
MASS was inspired by EJI’s dedication to recording this history that has gone undocumented for decades. In an effort to involve people more deeply in this process of recovery and reconciliation, we designed the process of soil collection, through which members of EJI would join members of the community in collecting soil from the sites were each of these lynchings took place. The soil collection process created space for communities to confront this history by becoming active participants in the commemoration of life unjustly taken. Strongly rooted in place, the soil collection process served as a prelude to the Memorial to Peace and Justice. The Memorial, which opened April 26, 2018, is a living monument to this history as counties gradually come to terms with their own histories of lynching and lay claim to markers from the memorial, which will be transported to each site over time.
Drawing on our commitment to community engagement, MASS supported EJI in developing an exhibition of the soil collection in EJI’s headquarters, as well as in the Legacy Museum. With a visual history of America’s history of racial terrorism, the exhibition contextualizes and recounts this meaningful process to address this history.