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In the period after the Civil War and the formal end of slavery, Jim Crow flourished in the South, and efforts to enforce racial hierarchies in America took on new forms of violent and abusive practices. Political and civic leaders executed these practices- in particular, convict leasing and lynching- to reverse strides toward equality and deny African American communities the ability to exercise newly attained citizenship rights of the Reconstruction era.
The Center’s Truth and Transformation Initiative was created to bring awareness to the issues of racial terror and forced labor in the city coined “too busy to hate,” Atlanta, Ga. The initiative aims to investigate the facts and locations of historical events and correct the narratives told in newspapers, books, film, and other mediums. This work is done by convening a coalition of community, historians, and politicians to create new memorials, mark historic locations, and appropriately commemorate the legacies of those impacted by the brutal history in our city.
The Initiative’s creators believe by facing the past with honesty and integrity, we can transform ourselves and our societies to commit to equity for our future and address longstanding inequalities.
This initiative has two major strands:
Government entities and private businesses colluded to re-enslave black men, women, and even children by falsely convicting them of crimes and sentencing them to labor. This practice, known as convict labor, became a lucrative industry, with prison labor camps and convict-leasing programs reinstating bondage for generations after the war ended. In Atlanta, these heinous acts took place at Bellwood Quarry and the Chattahoochee Brick Company.
The Truth and Transformation Initiative and its coalition partners aim to establish the first U.S. convict labor memorials so visitors may reflect on this history, and to inspire positive change in the neighboring communities.
Five-hundred documented lynchings occurred in Georgia between 1877 and 1950; twenty-five of these murders happened during a four-day eruption of violence in Atlanta in September 1906. The 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre is largely unknown today, despite being a defining moment in the local and national history of racial terror. The Truth and Transformation Initiative uses EJI’s innovative community remembrance approach. We work with grassroots organizations and historians to confront the legacy of the Massacre so that Atlanta may commemorate the past to acknowledge a more complete, inclusive account of our shared history.
Visit our event page to see how you can join.
In the period after the Civil War and the formal end of slavery, efforts to enforce racial hierarchies took new forms — with violent and abusive legal and cultural practices. Political and civic leaders exerted convict leasing and lynching to reverse strides toward equality and deny Black communities the ability to exercise newly attained citizenship rights of the Reconstruction era.
In the late 1800s, convict leasing and convict labor became industries that led to prison labor camps that reinstated bondage for generations of African Americans. Lynching was a widespread domestic terror tactic that local governments encouraged to instill fear and enforce segregation and racial subordination. The history of these practices is largely unknown – neither taught in schools nor represented in public spaces – even though both practices took place in prominent locations around Atlanta.
Painful history, when explored accurately and empathetically, can inspire us to address persistent inequities that exist as legacies of that history in our lives today. Introducing memorials to public spaces, and telling the truth about our common history, can inform our shared understanding about who is seen or silenced and what we choose to revere or disdain as we mold the future.