Oprah wants you to know why 805 steel markers hang from the ceiling at this museum.

There’s a new memorial and museum in Montgomery, Alabama, that Oprah Winfrey wants the world to see.

The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice open on April 26.  

In a segment on “60 Minutes” that aired April 8, Oprah was given advance access to the museum and memorial, and in her report, she identified the “reckoning taking place in America over how we remember our history.”  


Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images.

It’s one of the first museums in the history of the United States to memorialize black lynching victims in our country.

The museum and memorial are a product of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization that works to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect the basic human rights of our country’s most vulnerable individuals.  

EJI is led by Bryan Stevenson, a historian, public speaker, and lawyer who has dedicated his career to advocating for the poor, incarcerated, and otherwise condemned in America.

Bryan Stevenson. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

For years, our history books have ignored or downplayed the epidemic of lynching in the United States.

A multi-year investigation from the EJI helped change the false narrative. Researchers documented:

4,075 racial terror lynchings of African-Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 — at least 800 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported.”

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is showcasing the names of victims on the markers that hang from the ceiling.

The reality is harsh. But it’s important that we recognize our history so it doesn’t become our future.  

The memorial has 805 steel markers, one marker for each county where lynchings took place. The magnitude of it is staggering — during Winfrey’s tour with Stevenson, she was shocked to see just how many names there were.

“Every name has its own story,” Winfrey said.

“If they couldn’t find the man they were looking for, they would lynch that man’s wife or daughter or child,” Stevenson said, of the horrific lynchings.

Each marker lists the names of lynching victims. Image from “60 Minutes.”

As Stevenson has noted in a number of interviews, owning up to America’s history of racial injustice is a huge challenge, but one that is worth it. If we can actually accept our nation’s failures, we can move toward a place where we won’t let our worst moments define us.    

The United States can move beyond the horrors of our past — it’s happened elsewhere before.  

Despite hosting one of the most lethal genocides in the world’s history, Germany has largely managed to admit to and move forward from the Holocaust.

The nation hasn’t done this by hiding out from reality, though. Instead, German schools teach children about the Holocaust early on, and multiple museums there allow citizens and visitors to reflect on the horrific acts.  

Germany owns up to its inequity and has policies in place that criminalize anti-Semitic and white supremacist behavior.

Photo by Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images.

America is a great nation, but for far too long, privileges have been granted to far too few.

We believe in freedom, democracy, and the rights to individual liberty and prosperity. But historically, those privileges existed only on the backs of people whose humanity was stripped from their lives. It’s tragic and horrific, but it does not have to be our story.

“There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy,” Stevenson once wrote. “When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”  

By amplifying the voices that were buried; recognizing their existence, their lives, and their pain; and ending similar behavior in our prisons, neighborhoods, and school systems, we can move toward a place where America’s promise becomes our central reality.

We can do better — and The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice are great ways to start.  

The museum and memorial open on April 26, 2018.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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