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On Saturday, June 26, the International Cultural Center in Auburn University’s Office of International Programs visited the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. The trip was hailed as positive and beneficial by attendees, which included Auburn students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Auburn community. The excursion was part of the International Cultural Center’s summer activities calendar to create cultural awareness and promote inclusion. The four-hour tour took attendees, most of whom were first-time visitors, around the museum to observe and educate themselves on how slavery, after reconstruction, was “dusted off and repurposed” in the American penal system.

Set between the Court Square Fountain and the Alabama River, the Legacy Museum occupies a building that was once a warehouse for human chattel. Just past the entrance, a ramp slopes down to five “slave pens,” behind which ghostly holograms in nineteenth-century costume tell their stories. Many of the first-time visitor’s crowded around the pens to listen closely as the figures spoke. The holograms consisted of two children dressed in white nightshirts. “Mama!” they cried. “Mama?” Harry, an excursion attendee, could not hide his emotions as tears began to run down his cheeks after hearing the children cry out.

“I could literally imagine the pain these young people went through as they were being separated from their parents and family,” said Harry. “This was really sad to see.”

Also inside the Museum were exhibits holding shelves of mason jars filled with soil from lynching sites. Each jar was marked with labels displaying the name of the victim, the date of their death and the county where the lynching took place. The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,075 lynching’s in 12 states between 1877 and 1950. This death toll includes 800 more murders than scholars had previously counted.

“I want to commend the International Cultural Center for putting together such a wonderful event that has exposed us to an important piece of American history,” said Seun Oladipupo, a Nigerian Auburn student. “I think this will forever shape my understanding of slavery and black history, and to think that people suffered such atrociously is most heartbreaking.”

Adeola Fayemi, director of the International Cultural Center, expressed her gratitude to the 22 excursion attendees and reassured them that the Center would continue to organize valuable excursions such as this to encourage people to educate themselves on American culture, as well as other cultures from around the world.

“The International Cultural Center, under its Study America Program will continue providing experiential educational opportunities to promote understanding of how the cultural tapestries that abound in the U.S. and other countries can be leveraged for global and cultural competency for all Auburn students,” said Fayemi.

She continued, “The trip to The Legacy Museum was truly a visceral eye-opener that painstakingly connects the legacy of slavery in Alabama and the U.S. with current societal racial tensions and cultural diversity. For international students, the trip triggered an important awakening and understanding of why the fight for equal justice and racial parity are so important here in the U.S. in comparison with their home countries.”

To learn more about the International Cultural Center and its diverse collection of cultural events offered throughout the year, click here. 

Legacy Museum atendees