Bryan Stevenson (Courtesy: Equal Justice Initiative)

In 2015, Equal Justice Initiative received a $1 million grant from Google.org to help fund the From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration Museum, as well as its Memorial to Peace and Justice. After the grant was made, EJI and Google.org looked for further ways to work together. EJI’s recently published 80-page report, “Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror,” seemed like an opportunity to leverage Google’s expertise — organizing information and making it more universally accessible — in the name of amplifying Equal Justice Initiative’s message. Coinciding with the launch of this project on June 13, Google.org will donate another $1 million to EJI to support its racial justice work.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of EJI said in a statement, “Google has been able to take what we know about lynching, and what we have heard from the families, and what we have seen in the spaces and the communities where these acts of terror took place, and make that knowledge accessible to a lot more people. To create a platform for hearing and understanding and seeing this world that we’ve lived through.”

This project is a reflection of Google’s longstanding commitment to equality and investments in innovators making a difference in racial and criminal justice. This announcement comes on the heels of $11.5 million in Google.org racial justice grants announced in February of this year, and a total of over $17 million to date.

Thomas Miles’ family (Image by Rog Walker via Google.org)

Justin Steele, principal of Google.org adds, “Google’s mission statement is universal access to information and knowledge for everyone. What’s important about EJI’s Lynching in America project is that they are giving everyone access to untold stories of our racial history and helping people develop a deeper understanding for how we have gotten to where we are in this country.”

The Lynching in America website brings together Equal Justice Initiative’s in-depth research and data with the stories of lynching victims, as told by their descendants. Through six audio stories, and a short documentary, Uprooted, you both hear and feel the impact of this dark time in history on generations of families. You can also explore an interactive map that includes incidents of racial terror lynchings, as well as in-depth profiles of the stories behind these acts of violence.

A story that has to be told …

Growing up, Shirah Dedman always hated family tree projects. While other students could trace their roots as far back as the Mayflower, her story always stopped at her great-grandfather. At the age of 32, with the help of researchers at Equal Justice Initiative, a Google.org grantee, Shirah learned the true story of her great-grandfather’s life — and death. Thomas Miles, a black business owner, was lynched in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1912 for allegedly passing a note to a white woman. It would be decades before his story would come to light and his family could begin to make sense of their traumatic past.

These stories are a difficult part of American history. Thomas Miles was one of more than 4,000 African Americans lynched in the U.S. between 1877 and 1950. Recently, the Dedman/Myles family returned to the South 100 years after Thomas Miles was lynched there.

Inspired by EJI’s original publication of the same name, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror is an interactive experience revealing both the scope of lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950 and the profound way in which this era continues to shape our nation, particularly in our criminal justice system. Racial disparities continue to burden people of color; the criminal justice system is infected with racial bias; and a presumption of dangerousness and guilt has led to mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and police violence against young people of color. If current trends continue, one of every three black boys born in America today will be imprisoned.

Yvette Caslin

I’m a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.