SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, a groundbreaking study on lynching documented the brutal mob violence that forced many African Americans to flee the south.
With help from Google, the racial justice group that published the study has transformed Lynchings in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror into an interactive digital platform that combines historical data and personal stories so people can explore one of the darkest passages in the nation’s history.
The goal is to spark a national dialogue about a subject that is too rarely discussed yet is crucial to understanding racism today, says Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the best-selling book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.
Google.org, the Internet giant’s philanthropic arm, also announced it’s giving another $1 million to the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative to support its racial justice work. In 2015, Google.org gave $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative to help fund a national memorial for lynching victims that the Equal Justice Initiative is building on six acres of vacant land in downtown Montgomery and a museum on the country’s racial history planned for the group’s headquarters that was once a slave warehouse.
“We want to change how we think about this era in America,” Stevenson said.
Doria Dee Johnson’s great-grandfather, Anthony Crawford, a father of 13 who started a school for black children and a successful businessman who owned 427 acres of prime cotton land in Abbeville, NC, was lynched in 1916 for cursing a white store owner he believed was trying to cheat him.
Johnson, an activist and PhD candidate in American history at the University of Wisconsin, says the trauma of lynchings created silence. This new digital platform, with its capacity to reach millions, is now helping to break it.