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EJI 2020 Activity Report

Dear Friends:
This has been a challenging and eventful year where we have all witnessed
much loss, fear and uncertainty. The legacy of our nations history of racial
injustice has been painfully evident in a series of disturbing incidents of police
violence and racial profiling. People in jails and prisons have experienced
devastation, disease and high rates of death as the COVID crisis has been
especially challenging for the incarcerated.
Despite economic uncertainty and hardship, you have supported us in our
efforts to respond to the multiple crises weve faced this year. Because of you,
we have actually expanded our work, increased our services to the vulnerable,
and found new ways to fight for equal justice and confront racial bias and
mistreatment of the poor.
We have never been more determined than we are today to fight for justice and
equality, and to change our criminal legal system. We are committed to
educating this country, changing narratives that have sustained inequality and
bigotry, ending excessive punishment and wrongful convictions, promoting
healthier communities and advancing an era of Truth and Justice our nation
desperately needs.
Thank you for your support which makes our work possible and thank you for
standing with us.
Bryan Stevenson
Executive Director
Over 500 people condemned to die in prison as children have been released
as a result of EJIs landmark win in Miller v. Alabama and our campaign to
end death in prison sentences imposed on children. In October, EJI won a
new sentence for Ken-Tay Lee, who was 14 when sentenced to life
imprisonment without parole in North Carolina. Ken-Tay was one of
dozens of 13 or 14-year-old children sentenced to die in prison whose
cases EJI took on to advance reforms, and he was finally freed in January
EJI Director Bryan Stevenson was awarded Social Innovator of the Year by
the Wall Street Journal Magazine, and was honored by the New York
Womens Foundation as a transformative leader and by Google as someone
whose passion and commitment are changing the landscape of their time.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice was named by Black
Excellence as one of seven sites on their list of “must visit African
American historical sites and The Robb Report designated the Memorial as
one of 9 Modern Design Icons That Will Stand the Test of Time. EJIs
Legacy Museum was designated the most well-curated history museum in
the country by online travel publication Fathom and received accolades
and recognition from Fodors and Canadian Traveler, which wrote that EJIs
museum and memorial will hit you in the heart.
Charity Navigator, the nations largest and most recognized monitor of
non-profit charities, announced that EJI earned a rare, perfect score of 100
for its efficiency, management, and productivity, and once again awarded
EJI its top, four-star rating.
EJI and community members in Springfield, Missouri unveiled a marker
memorializing Horace Duncan, Fred Coker, and William Allen, three African
American men lynched by a white mob at Park Central Square in 1906.
Engaging community leaders, activists and students, it was the first public
recognition of these horrific racial terror lynchings in a public space. EJI
also awarded $6,500 in scholarships to high school students as part of a
community remembrance essay contest.
EJI released a new report detailing abusive prison conditions in Alabama,
where incarcerated people are beaten, stabbed, raped, and killed in
facilities run by officials who abuse their power and deny incarcerated
people adequate care. EJI documented that the State of Alabama once
again has the highest prison homicide rate in the country.
Just Mercy, based on the bestselling memoir by EJI Director Bryan
Stevenson, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2019.
By November, it went on to win the Audience Award at the Twin Cities
Film Fest, Audience Award for Best Feature at the Chicago International
Film Fest, Best of the Fest Audience Award for Best Film at the St. Louis
International Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at
the Virginia Film Festival, Overall Audience Favorite at the 2019 Mill Valley
Film Festival, Spotlight Film Audience Award at the New Orleans Film
Festival, and Overall & Special Presentation Audience Choice Award at the
Heartland International Film Festival.
EJI Director Bryan Stevenson was awarded the 2019 Thomas J. Dodd Prize
in International Justice and Human Rights, the Aspen Institutes Public
Service Award, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiatives Elisabeth B.
Weintz Humanitarian Award.
EJI continued a program of intervening on behalf of chronically ill prisoners
to seek their release. In November, we won a furlough release for Lee
Carroll Brooker who, a few years earlier, was sentenced to life
imprisonment without parole for possession of marijuana under Alabamas
notorious habitual felony offender law. Mr. Brooker was a 75-year-old
disabled combat veteran who used marijuana for medical purposes when
he was condemned to die in prison. EJI filed multiple appeals on his behalf
that received national attention and was finally able to secure his release
last year.
EJI hosted free screenings of Just Mercy to hundreds of area residents in
Montgomery, Alabama. Actor Michael B. Jordan made an appearance to
thank the many local community members who support our work. The film
opened to national audiences on Christmas day and received an A+
Cinemascore and a 99% Audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
EJI continued to file briefs and pleadings and provide legal assistance to
dozens of clients sentenced to death awaiting execution in Alabama, as
well as people wrongly convicted or sentenced, abused in prison, or
unfairly prosecuted. We conducted nearly two dozen trials, hearings, or
legal proceedings on behalf of our clients during the course of the year.
EJI and community members in Fort Deposit, Alabama unveiled a marker
memorializing the lynchings of Mr. Ed Bracy, Mr. Jim Press Meriweather,
and Rev. G. Smith Watkins, three Black sharecroppers and union leaders
lynched in Lowndes County in 1935.
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce awarded the Chairmans
Award, its highest honor, to EJI in recognition of the national attention and
tourism growth that EJIs Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace
and Justice have brought to Montgomery. Orbitz, an influential travel
publication, highlighted both the Museum and Memorial in their coverage
of civil rights sites.
EJI released its new 2020 calendar, A History of Racial Injustice, which
documents the history of racial inequality in America. It was the eighth
edition of the award-winning calendar, which features new content each
EJI opened the Legacy Pavilion in Montgomery, which honors local Civil
Rights leaders from the Civil Rights era and features a monument honoring
the men, women, and children who were victims of racial terror lynchings
during the Reconstruction era with sculptures by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo.
The Pavilion also houses the EJI bookstore and cafe.
Pannie-Georges, a local, family-owned business with award-winning chefs,
opened a new restaurant inside EJIs new Legacy Pavilion over Martin
Luther King Jr. weekend. The recipes for Pannie-Georges menu have been
passed down through three generations of Southern African American
EJI provided free admission to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice
and the Legacy Museum to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s holiday.
Thousands of visitors came to the sites over the holiday, adding to the
more than 750,000 people who have visited the sites in the first 18 months
since opening.
Bryan Stevenson accepted the National Board of Review Award for
Freedom of Expression for the Just Mercy movie at an event in New York
City. He also introduced Jamie Foxx, who was presented the Spotlight
Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival for his performance in the film.
Vernon Madison, who developed dementia after being condemned on
Alabamas death row for 30 years, died in prison less than a year after EJI
won a ruling from the United States Supreme Court that established that
people suffering from dementia and neurological disease could be shielded
from execution by the Eighth Amendment.
Virginia became the 23rd state to ban imposing life imprisonment without
parole sentences on children, impacting 700 people prosecuted as adults in
the state. The reform came after EJI won a major federal court ruling that
extended constitutional protections against life without parole sentences
to children in Virginia after the state had argued they were not eligible.
Several schools announced that Just Mercy would be a campus-wide read in
2020. Over 200 colleges and universities have incorporated Bryan
Stevensons book into planned programming and lectures to facilitate
conversation and reform of the criminal legal system. Anthony Ray Hintons
book, The Sun Does Shine, has also been adopted as a campus-read at
several schools and Mr. Hinton has inspired students through dozens of
talks given around the country.
The American Black Film Festival named Just Mercy Movie of the Year and
presented Jamie Foxx with the Excellence in the Arts award. Just Mercy
won four NAACP Image Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Ensemble
Cast in a Motion Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor at the
annual awards event.
EJI hosted Congressman John Lewis, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,
and dozens of members of Congress who visited the Legacy Museum and
the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery before hearing
an address from EJI Director Bryan Stevenson.
The execution of Nathaniel Woods drew nationwide attention. He was the
67th person executed in Alabama despite the fact that there was no
dispute he did not kill anyone in a 2004 Birmingham homicide. EJI
highlighted the dramatic evidence of racial bias in Mr. Woods case and in
the use of the death penalty in the U.S., with reports documenting racial
bias in jury selection, prosecutorial bias, and sentencing bias by judges.
In response to the COVID pandemic, EJI closed the Legacy Museum and
National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We made a commitment to
continue to pay and provide benefits to all employees despite the closure.
Colorado abolished the death penalty, becoming the 22nd state to formally
repeal laws authorizing capital punishment. EJI has made multiple
presentations to lawmakers and advocated across the state in support of
abolition for nearly a decade.
EJIs Legacy Museum, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and Legacy
Pavilion were named in The Architecture Designs's list of the eleven best
American heritage sites.
EJI filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of death row prisoners in Alabama
challenging a new state law that restricts appellate review for people
sentenced to death. EJI contends that the law denies death row prisoners a
fair opportunity to have their cases reviewed and increases the likelihood
that unreliable and unconstitutional convictions will go unremedied.
EJI intervened with state officials to address the COVID crisis in prisons
and offered to provide re-entry support services, transportation, and any
additional aid needed to facilitate the early release of state prisoners who
face significantly greater risk of infection from the coronavirus.
EJIs newly redesigned website was recognized as the Peoples Voice
Winner for the Best Nonprofit Website in the 24th Annual Webby Awards.
EJIs site was singled out as one of the five best in the world in the
Charitable Organizations/Non-Profit category.
Oprah Winfrey listed Just Mercy and The Sun Does Shine among books that
changed her life in O, The Oprah Magazine.
In the wake of police violence and other incidents of racial profiling, Bryan
Stevenson and EJI staff spoke at the Harvard and Emory commencement
addresses and public speeches around the country, urging reforms to
overcome the presumption of guilt that gets assigned to Black people in
the United States.
EJI made dozens of presentations in response to the tragic killings of
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to national audiences
and in national publications, including a call to end qualified immunity for
police officers.
EJI partnered with the National Basketball Association Coaches Association
to advance racial justice work by NBA coaches and players in communities
where professional basketball is played. Many coaches used EJI materials,
including our calendar, to educate sports viewers about the history of racial
injustice in America.
True Justice, the HBO documentary about EJI's efforts to create greater
fairness in the criminal legal system, won Best Documentary honors at the
National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications Vision Awards.
Just Mercy won the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for Best
Picture of the Year.
EJI released Reconstruction in America, a new report on the reign of terror
that emerged between 1865 and 1877 in response to the emancipation of
Black people. In the report, EJI documented 2000 lynchings, detailed
dozens of mass lynchings of Black people, and reported on the formation of
Jim Crow and white supremacy in America.
A new video about our Reconstruction report that animates the history of
anti-Black violence in America, created in partnership with Molly
Crabapple, garnered over a million views.
In a major decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the State
of North Carolina is barred from reimposing a death sentence on Marcus
Robinson. The decision came after a hearing at which EJI provided expert
testimony and evidence establishing that his death sentence was imposed
in a racially biased manner.
EJI and members of the Christopher Davis Community Remembrance
Project installed a historical marker in Athens, Ohio, to memorialize the
1881 lynching of Christopher Davis. EJI also partnered with the Montevallo
Community Remembrance Coalition to install a marker recognizing the
victims of a double lynching in Shelby County, Alabama in 1889.
Warner Brothers announced that Just Mercy would stream for free on
major streaming services to help people around the world better
understand racial injustice in America. The film also was nominated by BET
for Best Movie of the Year. True Justice won a Peabody Award for
Outstanding Documentary of the Year.
EJI released a video urging a new era of Truth and Justice in response to
police shootings of unarmed Black people and the ongoing challenges of
racial inequality and racial injustice.
EJI reopened its sites and offered free admission in response to the urgent
need to educate Americans about racial inequality. We also opened a new,
compelling nighttime experience at the National Memorial for Peace and
Justice. Conde Nast Traveler listed EJIs Legacy Museum among their best
places to visit in Alabama and SEGD, the Society for Experiential Graphic
Designs, named EJIs National Memorial for Peace and Justice as Best of
Alabama prison guards were indicted for abusing, severely beating, and
assaulting several Alabama prisoners after EJI submitted detailed reports
and documentation to the Department of Justice. Widespread abuse and
corruption has created a crisis of violence and insecurity within prisons.
EJI partnered with the NAACP DeKalb Remembrance Coalition and the
Jackson-Madison County Community Remembrance Project to unveil
markers memorializing racial terror lynchings that took place in their
respective communities.
EJI honored civil rights icons C.T. Vivian and John Lewis, who spoke with
Bryan Stevenson and President Obama at a forum with young activists on
the urgency of activism and confronting racial injustice in June. Reverend
Vivian and Congressman Lewis were longtime supporters of EJI and are
honored at the Legacy Museum.
EJI worked with the Jackson-Madison County Community Remembrance
Project to erect a historical marker memorializing two victims of racial
terror lynching in Madison County, Tennessee. The marker memorialized
the tragic lynchings of Eliza Woods and John Brown, among others
between 1877 and 1950
EJI won an important victory in the Alabama Supreme Court preserving the
rights of death row prisoners to challenge illegal racial discrimination in
jury selection, a widespread problem in Alabama capital trials that has
resulted in over two dozen reversals. The Alabama Attorney General
sought to bar review of racial discrimination claims from plain error
review, which would make these claims the only claims that could not be
reviewed. EJI challenged the effort and the Alabama Supreme Court
rejected the States call for new rules.
EJI won early release for Felecia Dixon after ten years of working together.
Ms. Dixon is a 55-year-old Black woman who was sentenced to 10 years
for minor property and drug offenses. She joined EJIs Reentry program in
The Sun Does Shine, a memoir by Anthony Ray Hinton, former EJI client and
current employee, was nominated as a finalist for the Dayton Literary
Peace Prize. The award called Mr. Hintons memoir an extraordinary
testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times.
Just Mercy won a 2020 Christopher Award in the feature film category.
Bryan Stevenson was also awarded the National Association of Criminal
Defense Lawyers Lifetime Achievement Award, and National Geographic
named the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as a site all Americans
should visit.
True Justice: Bryan Stevensons Fight for Equality, the HBO documentary
about our work, won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Social Issue
Documentary, at the 2020 Emmy Awards.
EJI partnered with DonorsChoose and FlipGrid to develop new curricula
based on our materials and to make educational resources that advance
understanding of our history of racial injustice and the need for criminal
justice reform widely accessible to teachers and people around the world.
As a result of the partnership, tens of thousands of children will now have
access to materials, which were publicized to teachers all across the
EJI released a report that documented more than 240 schools across the
U.S. that bear the name of a Confederate leader. The schools are located in
17 states, from Georgia to Minnesota, to California. Significantly, about
half of these Confederate-named schools serve student bodies that are
majority Black or nonwhite. The report and accompanying video that EJI
produced received national attention, and since then numerous school
districts have partnered with EJI as they attempt to confront and respond
to the legacy of racial injustice caused by Confederate-named schools.
EJI and the Tulsa Community Remembrance Coalition unveiled a historical
marker recognizing the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. EJI partnered with the Walker County, Georgia, Remembrance
Coalition to unveil a historical marker in that community that recognizes
Henry White, a Black man lynched in 1916.
EJI donated tens of thousands of A History of Racial Injustice calendars,
which highlight different historical injustices each day, to educators and
community leaders across the country. The historical calendars are a way
for people to learn about and confront our countrys history of racial
EJIs Legacy Museum reopened with a special new exhibit on the
Transatlantic Slave Trade. The new exhibit documented the roughly 12.7
million women, men, and children who were kidnapped in Africa, trafficked
across the Atlantic Ocean, and enslaved in the Americas.
EJI won the release of Ruth Ann Veal after years of advocacy in Iowa. Ms.
Veal was only 14 when she was convicted and sentenced to life
imprisonment without parole. She was one of the first cases EJI filed
challenging mandatory life without parole sentences imposed on children.
She transitioned to post-release programming after 27 years of
A historical marker honoring Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Issac
McGhie, Black men who were lynched in Duluth, Minnesota in June 1920
was unveiled as part of EJIs Truth and Justice Effort. EJI worked with the
Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and the Duluth Chapter of the NAACP,
along with city officials and community members on the project.
EJI documented several recent prison murders in an effort to create urgent
remedies desperately needed to relieve acute violence and danger within
Alabama prisons. EJI has been working with family members, people in
prison, and advocates, to advocate for several immediate reforms.
EJI continues to provide reentry services and support to people in Alabama
especially the disabled who are vulnerable. We helped with the release of a
47-year-old Black man who had been repeatedly stabbed during a seven
month prison term. He was incarcerated after improperly eating from a
breakfast buffet at a Holiday Inn while on probation.
EJI released the 2021 A History of Racial Injustice calendar, which includes
daily historical entries highlighting critical, but often overlooked moments
in our history as a way for us to confront our history of racial injustice and
its legacy. The release was accompanied by a public education campaign in
which over 100,000 calendars and materials were distributed to public
libraries, schools, community groups, and social justice partners around the
EJI won release for client James Edwards, a 61-year-old man who had been
in prison since 1990 and was suffering from severe medical issues in an
Alabama prison before EJI won a reduction to his sentence. EJI also won a
medical furlough for another man, a former Army veteran, who was
sentenced to life without parole for drug crimes. Both men are receiving
support and services through EJIs post-release program.
The Colorado Community Remembrance Project, in partnership with EJI
and Denver officials, erected a historical marker in Denver to memorialize
the racial terror lynching of 15-year-old John Porter in 1900. EJI has now
erected dozens of monuments to Black lynching victims across the United
States with community groups who are advancing truth-telling in their
EJI Rural Development Manager Catherine Coleman Flowers was awarded
a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her work documenting
wastewater issues in poor rural communities. Ms. Flowers also released a
new book, Waste which was published by the New Press.
Alabama voters passed Amendment 4 which opens the door to eliminating
unenforceable language in Alabamas state constitution that still prohibits
Black and white students from attending the same schools. EJI has
advocated for repeal of the law for several years.
As it has done for several years in a row, Charity Navigator awarded EJI
another perfect score and a top four-star rating as a charity to support
based on financial reporting, management, and transparency. EJI is one of
only two civil rights organizations with a perfect score.
EJI won relief for a woman who was sentenced to life imprisonment
without parole for a crime she committed when she was 17. After 40 years
in prison, EJI obtained a new sentencing hearing as part of our work under
Miller v. Alabama. The trial judge resentenced her to life without parole,
but after an appeal by EJI, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed her
EJI sought relief for Talmadge Hayes, who was sentenced to life
imprisonment without parole at age 17 in Florida. As a result, his probation
was terminated and he is now completely free. EJI won a reduced sentence
for Mr. Hayes in 2012 as part of our program aiding children prosecuted as
adults. He was one of nearly two dozen EJI clients in Florida, all of whom
were children sentenced to die in prison.
EJI won the release of a 34-year-old man who was sentenced as an adult
for property-related offenses when he was 17. He served 17 years in
prison and was one of EJIs plaintiffs in a lawsuit against St. Clair
Correctional Facility after being seriously assaulted. Mr. Hagood joined
EJIs PREP re-entry program in December.
Bryan Stevenson was awarded the Right Livelihood Award along with
human rights activists in Iran, Belarus, and Nicaragua. The award was
presented by EJI Community Educator and former client Anthony Ray
Hinton, to an international audience. Mr. Stevenson also was awarded the
Global Citizen of the Year Award, presented by Oprah Winfrey and Usher
in a nationally broadcast ceremony.
EJI won relief in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals for Lionel Francis,
an Alabama death row prisoner who was unconstitutionally sentenced to
death in 2016. The Court ruled that a death sentence cannot be imposed
and he cannot be executed.
Equal Justice Initiative
122 Commerce St.
Montgomery, AL 36104