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Group aims to create Birmingham memorial to lynching victims

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Efforts are under way to create a memorial to African-Americans who were lynched in Jefferson County.

A group of residents hopes the Birmingham memorial can be in the same spirit and style as the national memorial that opened earlier this year in Montgomery, reported .

Organizers of the Jefferson County Memorial Project say they hope to have the memorial established in Birmingham’s Linn Park.

Backers of the Birmingham memorial recently toured the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. That memorial opened in April. It’s the Equal Justice Initiative’s project to memorialize more than 4,400 black people who were lynched between 1877 and 1950.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jefferson County Memorial Project organizers also toured the Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration, another EJI project in downtown Montgomery, where men women and children were sold in 19th century slave markets.

More than 800 engraved steel slabs hang in the National Memorial, one for each county where EJI researchers documented a lynching. The slabs bear the names of the victims. Eight hundred duplicate slabs lie horizontally on the grounds of the six-acre (2ha 4281) memorial.

EJI’s goal is to have counties where lynchings took place claim their duplicate slabs to erect memorials in the counties. That’s what the Jefferson County Memorial Project organizers hope to do.

“The goal of it is to tell an untold history and use the retrieval of this monument to spark a larger public discussion about the history of racial violence and the legacies of racial injustice that still exist today,” said Abigail Schneider, one of the leaders of the project.

Schneider, who is a project manager for the online banking service Azlo, said the group believes Linn Park would be the appropriate site for the memorial because of its history and location. Schneider said the county’s first lynching happened in the park in 1883, when it was called Central Park. The victim was Lewis Houston.

“He was specifically taken from the jail on Fourth Avenue North and dragged to Central Park to be lynched as a way to claim this as a white space and show that we can do this in the public and have the government’s support behind it and they’re not going to stop us,” Schneider said.

Linn Park was the site of protests against poll taxes in the 1930s, Schneider said. Efforts by blacks to gain voting rights were met with racial violence like lynching, she said.

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