Wes Johnson was about 18 years old when he was murdered in a cotton field in southern Alabama. It was 1937, and according to newspaper reports at the time, a mob of men had dragged him from his jail cell before he could stand trial for the charge against him: assaulting a white woman. Today, only one photograph is known to exist of Johnson, a single picture to preserve his image for posterity—his lifeless body hanging from a tree.
Bryan Stevenson wants to honor the legacy of Johnson, and thousands like him, with a new memorial for victims of lynching in America. Stevenson is a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization that investigates the lynchings of African Americans. To commemorate the victims whose cases they’ve examined, the organization recently bought six acres of land in Montgomery, Alabama and constructed a memorial.
This week on 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey gets an early look at the memorial, which will open to the public on April 26. The memorial contains 805 steel markers, one for each county where lynchings occurred for more than 70 years following the Civil War. The markers are suspended in air to evoke the horror of being hanged.
To tell that story on 60 Minutes, Winfrey and a team of producers felt it was important to show historical photos of lynchings, images that are likely to disturb many viewers. In an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Denise Schrier Cetta, the producer of the story, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the broadcast, explain their decision to air such upsetting photographs.
For the full story, visit CBSNews.com/News.
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