CMS Teachers Journey to Face Legacy of Racial Injustice

“Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin

Twenty-six CMS teachers traveled far, together, to face America’s legacy of racial injustice revealed through the Equal Justice Initiative’s new Legacy Museum and national memorial to victims of lynching, in Montgomery, AL. Their transformative expedition April 26-28 to the opening ceremonies of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, was supported by Charlotte Teachers Institute, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte.

The teachers joined in discussions about the book White Rage by Carol Anderson; visited the EJI memorial and museum and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial; participated in a two-day Peace and Justice Summit; attended the Concert for Peace and Justice (featuring Common and Stevie Wonder); and also visited a lynching memorial in Georgia during their bus ride back to Charlotte.

The teachers’ trip, conceived and organized by former CTI Fellow and East Mecklenburg High History Teacher Larry Bosc, was an outgrowth of an equal justice workshop last summer with EJI, hosted by CTI and the Greenspon Center. Teachers at that workshop heard about plans for the new memorial and museum and were motivated to participate in the opening ceremonies, as well as develop new lessons for their students, based on EJI research and curricula.

EJI’s memorial features over 800 monumental structures, with each one representing a U.S. county where a racial terror lynching occurred, with victims’ names engraved on the columns. The memorial also includes a park hosting a field of identical monuments, with the intention that each one be claimed by their home county to be installed publicly. EJI notes: “Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.”

Upon returning to Charlotte, the CMS teacher group committed to begin work to bring to Charlotte the memorial recognizing the two Mecklenburg County lynching victims: Willie McDaniel and Joseph McNeely.

CMS Teachers’ Reflections on their historic journey