Sculpture by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo depicts a man wearing an iron collar like those used on people kidnapped from Africa and trafficked to the Americas during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The Legacy Museum

The Legacy Museum

The Legacy Museum offers a powerful, immersive journey through America’s history of racial injustice.

On the site of a cotton warehouse where enslaved Black people were forced to labor in bondage, the Legacy Museum tells the story of slavery in America and its legacy through interactive media, first-person narratives, world-class art, and data-rich exhibits.

Travel through a comprehensive history of the destructive violence that shaped our nation, from the slave trade, to the era of Jim Crow and racial terror lynchings, to our current mass incarceration crisis—and find inspiration in our soaring Reflection Space and world-class art gallery.

From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

Starving children wearing scraps of clothing who were rescued from a trafficker's ship.

Between 1501 and 1867, nearly 13 million African people were kidnapped, forced onto ships, and trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. Two million people died during the barbaric Middle Passage.

Photograph shows a mass of raised scars on the back of Private Gordon, an enslaved man, left by brutal whippings.

An elaborate and enduring mythology about the inferiority of Black people was created to legitimate, perpetuate, and defend the violent, brutal realities of slavery in America over the next two centuries.

A black map of the U.S. with red dots that represent lynchings and racial violence during Reconstruction, from 1865 to 1876.

During Reconstruction, the 12-year period following the Civil War, lawlessness and violence perpetrated by white leaders created an American future of racial hierarchy, white supremacy, and Jim Crow laws.

Colorized photograph shows thousands of people watching the public spectacle lynching of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas, on February 1, 1893.

Lynching emerged as a vicious tool of racial control in the South after the Civil War. Lynchings were violent and public events designed to terrorize all Black people in order to re-establish white supremacy and suppress Black civil rights.

Young boys wave Confederate flags and a sign that reads

Most white Americans supported segregation. Millions of white parents voted to close and defund public schools, transferred their children to private, white-only schools, and harassed and violently attacked Black students while their own children watched or participated.

Young men in red jumpsuits with

The false racial narrative that justified slavery evolved into a presumption of guilt and dangerousness that makes people of color vulnerable to racial violence, wrongful convictions, and unfair treatment today.

A tragic, false narrative of racial difference was created in America that has resulted in centuries of racial bigotry and injustice.

This belief in racial hierarchy was used to legitimate, perpetuate, and defend slavery—and it survived slavery’s abolition, fueling racial terror lynchings, demanding legally codified segregation, and spawning our contemporary mass incarceration crisis.

The Legacy Museum traces the evolution of this dehumanizing myth from our nation’s founding to today.