Community Engagement Interns Visit the Legacy Museum

Posted on August 16, 2021 by Samantha Oyler, class of 2024
Samantha Oyler, class of 2024

Students talking with faculty at the Legacy Museum.On June 23rd, 2021, Dr. Kathy Cooke – along with a handful of fellow colleagues (Deborah Gurt, Shannon Shelley-Tremblay, and Gary Turner) and students (Abigayle Edler, JaTya Farrell, Tory Sanders, and Lex McKinnell) – took a day trip to Montgomery as part of their Delta Fellows Program. This community engagement internship aims to promote civic engagement within local Alabamian communities through grants received via the Jean O’Connor Snyder Internship Program (JOIP) sponsored by the David Matthews Center.

The day trip consisted of visits to both the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Legacy Museum, opened in April of 2018, was built by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization founded by lawyer and author Bryan Stevenson (most commonly known for his book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption). The museum is an experience more than an attraction. It is a confrontation with the ongoing history of race in the country. As the museum’s website describes, the museum is “an engine for education about the legacy of racial inequality and for the truth and reconciliation that leads to real solutions to contemporary problems.”

Students and Faculty standing outside the front of the Legacy Museum.The National Memorial for Peace and Justice (frequently tagged the “National Lynching Memorial”) is also a project of EJI. The memorial is dedicated to the legacy of Black people in the country and the violence taken out on them. As compared to the museum, this site is more about speaking through art, using sculptures to represent different periods of racism in the country. The largest aspect of the site is the sculpture depicting names of every county in the country in which there was a lynching, Mobile County included. The size, and therein the context of the size, are quite daunting. 

The trip proved to be very impactful among those who attended. Student Abigayle Edler shared    that “this trip to Montgomery was [her] first time visiting the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.” She found the memorial “incredibly moving,” and “would like to visit the museum again sometime to learn more and better absorb everything.” 

Jack Turner was lynched in Butler, Alabama, in 1882 for organizing black voters in Choctaw County.

JaTya Farrell also shared her insight, stating that “as Black woman, I am fully aware of the atrocities that my ancestors faced as well as the battle that we still fight today as being black in America.” She claimed that despite the overwhelming nature of the displays, as well as the fact that she was already aware of the atrocities depicted, she was “appreciative that it allowed non-black people to see the disparities that we have faced and still face today.” I share her final sentiment: “I hope museums like the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice continue to stir up conversation and hopefully one day true equality will be obtained.”

The Honors College plans to continue having similar trips in the future, with more students as well rather than just Delta Fellows students. The college is also looking forward to the Jubilee Bridge Crossing in Selma in the spring of 2022, as engaging with the community in thoughtful and educational ways is a goal for the students and faculty alike in the program.

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