The Equal Justice Initiative has announced gifts totaling $10 million from siblings Jon and Patricia A. Stryker to build a national memorial to the victims of lynching.
The gifts of $5 million each from Jon and Pat Stryker, founders of the Arcus and Bohemian foundations, respectively, will support EJI's efforts to build the Memorial to Peace and Justice and From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, a museum dedicated to African-American history and racial justice. To be located on six acres of land in Montgomery, Alabama, the memorial will include the names of more than four thousand lynching victims engraved on concrete columns representing each U.S. county where a lynching took place. The neoclassical structure will be surrounded by a park, where duplicate columns engraved with the names of lynching victims will be placed until they are claimed by the counties and permanently installed where the lynchings took place.
The 11,000-square-foot museum, which is scheduled to open in 2017, will be situated near the Alabama River dock, one of the South's most prominent and trafficked slave auction sites. With the gift from Jon Stryker and the grant from Pat Stryker's foundation, EJI is now $5 million short of its $35 million fundraising goal for construction of the museum and memorial.
"Pat and Jon have committed themselves to social justice and human rights, and it is energizing and affirming to witness their commitment and have their support," said Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of EJI and recipient of the 2016 John W. Gardner Leadership Award. "We are determined to help our nation recover from a history of racial injustice and believe these cultural projects are critically important at a time when the legacy of racial bias still persists. Because of the Strykers we can make an enormous step forward."
"We are pleased to make this donation in honor of our father, Lee Stryker," the Strykers said in a statement. "Dad believed strongly in justice and equality and through his words and deeds taught us those values from the earliest age. He would be humbled to know that this gift will help to erect an essential and long-overdue memorial. Our hope is that through this memorial we can acknowledge our country's history of brutal racial violence, and that increased visibility can help to inform present-day discussions of race relations."