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Oprah Winfrey and “60 Minutes” Get The First Look Inside a Memorial to the Victims of Lynchings This Sunday on CBS

Oprah Winfrey and “60 Minutes” Get The First Look Inside a Memorial to the Victims of Lynchings This Sunday on CBS
“The National Memorial for Peace and Justice” in Alabama Opens on April 26
Oprah Winfrey and “60 Minutes” Get The First Look Inside a Memorial to the Victims of Lynchings of More Than 4,300 Men, Women and Children, This Sunday on CBS
Oprah Winfrey brings 60 MINUTES cameras into a new memorial dedicated to the thousands of victims of lynchings that took place over a 70-year period following the Civil War. It will be the first time the public sees the inside of the structure and its 805 steel markers, each bearing the names of people murdered – often with thousands of onlookers amid a picnic-like atmosphere. Her report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 8 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Each marker represents a state county and contains the names of victims of lynchings from that area. The memorial takes up six acres in the heart of Montgomery, Ala., perhaps the best-known city in the struggle for civil rights. Alabama was also the scene of 361 documented lynchings.
The efforts to build “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice” were led by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. Asked by Winfrey why he chose to commemorate lynching as opposed to other injustices done by white people to the black community, he says the murderous acts were a way for whites to maintain political control over African Americans, who were supposed to get the right to vote after the Civil War. “Lynching was especially effective because it would allow the whole community to know that we did this to this person…a message that, if you try to vote, if you try to advocate for your rights…anything that complicates white supremacy…and political power, we will kill you.”
Among the more than 4,300 cases of lynching documented by Stevenson and his team was the story of Jesse Washington, a black man accused of a crime in Waco, Texas. One team member, criminal defense attorney Sia Sanneh, found a newspaper account of Washington’s murder. She tells Winfrey it described a crowd of 15,000, many “dressed in their Sunday best.” It detailed how Washington’s clothing was soaked in oil before he was tied to a tree and then lowered into a fire set beneath him. “I think it’s incredibly telling that death was not enough…People would be killed and then shot and then set on fire,” she says. “There are some cases where the body was dragged to the heart of the black community.”
In addition to the monuments displaying the names of the victims, the team has collected jars filled with soil from many places where lynchings took place. Winfrey and cameras record descendants of lynching victim Wes Johnson collecting soil from an Alabama cotton field. The 18-year-old was accused of assaulting a white woman, arrested and then taken from his cell by a mob before his trial. He was shot and then hanged from a tree. Stevenson tells Winfrey, “Something happened here that was wrong…unjust, and too few people have talked about it. So that’s what we want to do today. We want to recognize the wrong that was done to Wes Johnson.”
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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and Entertainment Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board and tour coordinator of the Television Critics Association’s press tours. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and DAP Health, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been a member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.