MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CBS SF) — As former KPIX anchor Dana King stared at the statue of her great grandmother, tears came to her eyes.
King, who left the TV news business in 2012, has been refining her skills as a sculptor ever since and now has a work displayed outside the new National Museum For Peace And Justice in Montgomery.
Her work — named Guided By Justice — honors those who walked for 300 days during the Montgomery bus boycott of the 1950s. She fashioned the three women in her piece after her Aunt Tiny, her great grandmother Lavinia who was enslaved, and a pregnant woman whose name she promised never to reveal.
Dana was there on the day the museum opened.
“One woman walked up to my great grandmother (her statue) and she stood about 3 feet from her and bent down to look into her eyes,” King said with emotion filling her voice. “And to see her maybe like no one saw her when she was alive… My great grandmother was enslaved and while she was a honorable person, she was never honored in her life.”
“But to see people touch her and hug her is more than I could ever hope for.”
The museum also stands as a tribute to more than 4,400 African American men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950.
Some 800 corten steel columns are engraved with their names and are organized by state and county. Along the walls are dozens of plaques that recount some of their stories.
Like Elbert Williams who was lynched in Brownsville, Tenn., in 1940 while helping to register African-American voters or Henry Smith who was lynched in Paris, Texas by a mob of 10,000, in 1893.
The museum is the brain child of Bryan Stevenson, head of the Equal Justice Initiative. He sees Germany’s atonement for the Holocaust and South Africa for apartheid, Rwanda for genocide, and says America, too, as country, must embrace our collective history, the good and the bad.
“In this country, we haven’t done that about lynching, about slavery, about segregation,” he told CBS This Morning. “There’s no place in this country where you can go and have an honest experience…I think it’s because we have created a narrative of denial.”
So Stevenson worked for years to build the stunning memorial. It opened in April.
King says Stevenson’s message touched her personally.
“We (African Americans) have to own our story,” she said. “It can’t be told by anybody but us.”
“I’m not doing these projects because I want to punish America,” says Stevenson. “I want us to be liberated from the chains that history has created.”
For more information about The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, go to museumandmemorial.eji.org.