Letter: Build empathy with visits to living legacies

Graphic by Lori Deaton

During Black History Month (and all months), perhaps we should look both within our own city and beyond it.

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Ala., presents a comprehensive history of the United States with a focus on the legacy of slavery and its effects upon our society [avl.mx/b7o]. Once again, my visit brought me to a deep silence of empathy, disbelief and tears — a paltry response to the actuality of what the Black race has endured over the centuries.

This museum shows us the history of our country. This is not “critical race theory.” I don’t know who coined this misleading term because there is nothing theoretical or interpretive about the racial history of the United States. It is simply factual!

The legacy’s expansive building is the site where enslaved Black people were forced to labor in bondage during the 19th century, and it now offers immersive, impactful art installations paired with critical scholarship in American history. The Legacy Museum is the outgrowth of the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization founded in 1989 that works to end mass incarceration and challenge racial and economic injustice, protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in America.

Asheville’s Peace Gardens and Hood Huggers International [avl.mx/b7p] are the perfect preparation for a visit to Montgomery. Guaranteed to “stir our souls and perceptions beyond language,” visitors and riders are given an intimate look at the effects of Jim Crow laws then and the healing process now, in our very own city.

A visit to either of these living legacies cannot help but to enlarge our perceptions and bring about the necessary empathy to change lives. It did mine!

— Linda Larsen
Asheville resident since 1983


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