There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Life began for me in Montgomery, Alabama, where my father was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base. As a privileged white child, I didn’t know anything about the nineteenth century traders who delivered slaves down the Alabama River to labor in the surrounding cotton fields. Growing up, I didn’t hear much about black World War II veterans working to regain their civil rights in the South. I never heard of a black girl named Rosa Parks, arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Nor did I know until much later about a young pastor, Martin Luther King Jr, who would be assassinated for leading the civil rights movement. The year of my birth was 1947, eighty-two years after the American Civil War tore our nation in two. I was only three years old when my father was transferred to Washington D.C.
I have since thought of the significance of my birthplace in terms of racial equality in our country. But nothing made me feel quite so close to the reality of that place until tonight. Oprah Winfrey hosted a story on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” mentioning the name of a black man named Wes Johnson, who was lynched in the cotton fields outside Montgomery, after being accused of—but not tried for—assaulting a white woman. The year was 1937, a mere ten years before I was born. I was appalled. I was sickened. I was incensed. This man and thousands of other black men, women and even children were lynched seventy-two years after slavery supposedly ended and our nation agreed to move forward as one race: human. That was awfully close to the time I came into this world.
Winfrey’s article featured the National Memorial for Peace and Justice being built in the city of my birth, documenting 805 counties where some of these lynchings took place. Criminal defense attorney Bryan Stevenson is spearheading the Memorial, calling attention to a part of history that many would like to forget. But like the Holocaust, we must not forget, lest we allow these atrocities to happen again.
God of the Innocent, raise our consciousness to remember those who have lost their lives just for being who they are. Amen
Meg Blaine Corrigan is the author of three books: Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child; Perils of a Polynesian Percussionist; and Saints With Slingshots: Daily Devotions for the Slightly Tarnished But Perpetually Forgiven Christian. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of New Mexico and has worked with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and war veterans. Her books may be purchased through her website, www.MegCorrigan.com or from www.amazon.com .