- Grades 9 - 12 Campus News
Back in January, Dock senior Josh Farmer was shadowing an uncle in New York City for his Senior Experience. On a tour of the offices, he noticed a framed photo of his uncle with Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, a book Josh had read in English class.
“Before I had a chance to register what was happening, I was being invited to go to Montgomery, AL, for the grand opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice,” Farmer says. Just like that, Farmer and two guests—he selected two of his English teachers, Mrs. Charlene Rauch and Mrs. Gretchen McTavish—were on their way to witness history.
The Equal Justice Initiative was founded by Stevenson in 1989 to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment, challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. The Legacy Museum commemorates the victims of lynchings and other forms of violence after the Civil War during the Reconstruction era to the 1950s.
“It was an extremely sobering experience,” says Farmer. “It would be a complete understatement to say that I had a life-changing experience on this trip.” A highlight for him was meeting Bryan Stevenson and having him sign Josh’s copy of the book.
Josh’s teachers were impressed, too. “Meeting Bryan Stevenson was delightful,” says Mrs. McTavish. “He appeared gracious, friendly, and humble, and was glad to hear that Dock was requiring seniors to read his book. Hearing him speak twice was even more inspiring. Stevenson has worked with death row inmates for 30 years, and his passion to assist those who the justice system and segments of society have largely turned their backs on is remarkable and contagious. One of the most important take-aways for me was that the work of the Equal Justice Initiative is based on faith in God, hope in redemption, and love for all.”
“This was a stunning opportunity, and an event I will never forget,” adds Mrs. Rauch. “Last year we decided to have all our seniors read Just Mercy. They found it fascinating, and we did too. We knew he was behind the Memorial and the museum, but we had no idea that one of our students would make it possible for us to attend the two-day grand opening.” Being interviewed by a local Montgomery TV news crew was just the icing on the cake (see video, below).
In addition to meeting historic figures like Rep. John Lewis, Al Gore, and many others, the opening also included concerts featuring stars such as Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews, Patti LaBelle, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and other artists.
“Bryan’s hope with this museum is to acknowledge the wrongs of the past so they are not repeated in the future,” Farmer says. “It is hard to believe that a summer reading assignment in English class would lead to such an awe-inspiring opportunity.”
About the Legacy Museum
Located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved in Montgomery, Alabama, this narrative museum uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system. Compelling visuals and data-rich exhibits provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to investigate America's history of racial injustice and its legacy — to draw dynamic connections across generations of Americans impacted by the tragic history of racial inequality. Learn more at
About the Equal Justice Initiative
Founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, EJI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. EJI challenges the death penalty and excessive punishment and provides re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people.
EJI is committed to changing the narrative about race in America by producing groundbreaking reports and short films that explore our nation’s history of racial injustice. It recently launched an ambitious national effort to create new spaces, markers, and memorials that address the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation.