In response to the letter to the editor regarding the Jefferson Madison Regional Library exhibit of soil from the Albemarle County site of a lynching (“Library display uninteresting,” The Daily Progress, July 16):
As we struggle to come to terms with racial injustice, we should be deeply indebted to the courageous work of Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, in helping us acknowledge and confront the history of lynching. Thousands of African American men and women were lynched, often in front of hundreds of cheering whites, as a deliberate plan to maintain the legacy of white supremacy.
The library exhibit with the jar of soil is one of hundreds such jars at the EJI’s museum containing soil from the sites of lynchings, at least one of which occurred in Albemarle County. This is sacred soil, with remnants of fear, sweat and blood from a man who was brutally terrorized and murdered because of the color of his skin. The hope is that this exhibit will cause us to ponder deeply what the stain of lynching has affected, and that it continues to affect how we see ourselves as a nation.
As Bryan Stevenson reminds us, we will not be able to heal the wounds of injustice until we honestly address our past. The museum and memorial Stephenson has created to tell the story of lynching, and to memorialize those who were lynched, will not allow us to divert our eyes from the terrible truth. To do otherwise is “Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land.”
Charles R. Dassance