America's Black Holocaust Museum documents decades of legitimate oppression kept alive in this country long after slaves were freed. The site is under renovation and expected to open this year.
But there is a virtual gallery where oral history is on display. One gallery documents the terror African Americans endured after slavery. A narrator chronicles some of the horrors.
"White people in the south were angry that people formerly considered property, were now equal citizens. Many turned to violence in the years immediately following the Civil War. Thousands of black people were murdered when they tried to claim their rights," said Dr. Robert Smith.
The virtual museum is a history classroom. Historian and Marquette University Professor Dr. Robert Smith explains,"It takes us through the entire span of what we might consider modern history in reference to the African Diaspora."
Included in the collection, America's own crimes against humanity.
The narration continues, "Nationwide resistance to racial equality resulted in the reestablishment of racial subordination through bias laws disenfranchisement and terrorism. Most dramatically enforced through lynching. Racial terror lynching's of Black people defined a shameful era in America."
At America's Black Holocaust Museum, you find visual depictions of the horror of lynching and abuse. Many too graphic to show on TV.
Dr. Smith notes, "We know that indeed black people were lynched because of efforts to engage in the political process, the threat of political power, but we also see black people get lynched by simply performing acts of dignity by simply refusing to bow to white supremacy. After the end of slavery lynching often became a cruel form of entertainment for white mobs. People celebrated with gruesome carnival-like atmospheres. There were not only postcards, but also the dismembering people, and keeping those parts of bodies as souvenirs. This is a grotesque treacherous evil practice that is one of the most vile expressions that human beings have expressed toward another group of individuals who they deem the other."
Dr. Smith goes on to say, "Not only was lynching used to control the population and assert a fictive notion of white racial superiority, but it's certainly turned into this evil form of entertainment, where black bodies were put on display in the most horrific ways."
The founder of America's Black Holocaust Museum Dr. James Cameron survived a lynching. In the museum's collection a tribute to victims of lynching. According to the records here at least 5,000 African Americans were killed by hanging.
Dr. Smith adds, "In most cases, there was never any punishment meted out to the folks who were the practitioners of lynching. "
Despite this tragic time in American history, Professor Smith is hopeful for the future. He insists that the ancestry of African Americans is built on strength, courage, and resilience.
"As much as we need to teach the difficult histories, we must also continually teach the rich beautiful histories that show, African Americans pushing back against that kind of racial oppression. Whether it was during the institution of slavery, during Jim Crow, or the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s and even today. There are so many brilliant stories of black excellence. We have to herald those. We absolutely have to do that."