Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For the Community

While many people ask “Why showcase that picture?” thinking we are promoting the Klan and its message, it is quite the opposite. The museum wanted to remain true to the history of the South, even the most disturbing parts so we can reflect with the community on how far we have come. The centuries of racial divide, the social customs that allowed it, and the story of segregation at its peak, all are evidenced in this image. But so is the realization that we cannot educate the youngest among us with such a slender understanding of the humanity we all share. 

That’s why the picture joined the othersAnd why, come September 29th, 2012, we’ll be opening Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. It, too, looks at a painful chapter in American and Southern history while challenging our viewers to make sure we aren’t leaving neighbors and community members without the same legal, social, and personal refuge today.


This is the history that we strive to educate others on.  It need not be forgotten.  This is why we continue today in a changed world, because of the people who fought against the bigotry of others.  The picture of the little girl is coming down from the building. For many the lone child, among a sea of adults in white robes, resonates.

A few comments from the community about this image...


"This photo tells me about parenthood.  How our personal views and beliefs are directly passed to our children and how only through the courage of those same children is an improved society forged."

"My mother used to tell me about the Klan rallies in Union, South Carolina when she was a little girl.  She said that everybody could tell who was under the robes, because everyone in town only owned one pair of shoes."

"Like the Little girl in Schindler's List." (A film about the Holocaust during World War II)

The 11 images that made up the Summer Virtual Series have been the face of Levine Museum of the New South for many years and they will now retire to their new homes and new images will go up.

Thank you for continuing to read the blog and learn the history of the images.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why this image?

As we come to the end of the Virtual Series, we at last come to what many consider our most striking but controversial image.  A bit of context: The process that went into choosing each picture for the fa├žade was one of telling a story. There were more than a dozen pictures to choose from, and each one selected told a piece of the South’s rich history and its spirit of reinvention. We looked at the early trolley systems, mill strikes, booming businesses, growing diverse cultures, significant figures, and much more to reveal the progress and pain that went into creating the New South.  Some images were more provocative than others, but their stories were important to tell.

For this week, as we conclude our Summer Virtual Series, we want to take a moment to address our community.  This week’s image, although it has been a part of the building with the rest of the pictures, has been a continuing item of concern within the community. It is one that causes many people to ask “Why would you put something like that on the building?” The short answer is that the museum is dedicated to telling the history of the South-- the good and the bad.  

The image of a little girl at a Ku Klux Klan rally has been a point of apprehension or contention for many people who come to the museum or who are just passing by. As we continue to tell the stories that these images hold, we also want to show the community that we were listening to your thoughts about this particular image. We know the image of the Klan evokes strong emotions but with our dedication to telling the history as true and complete as it is, this is another piece of the puzzle.

Many people know the distinctive white hoods and dress of the Ku Klux Klan, but what often goes untold are the origins and early purposes of the KKK. After the Civil War, all men—black or white, rich or poor—had the right to vote.  As governments started showing greater racial and economic diversity because of the new voters, wealthy landowners, who controlled most of the government previously, began losing control rapidly. A system of terror started to play out.  The Ku Klux Klan was created and their early targets of terror were the poor white and black voters. Secret groups like the KKK used threats, beatings and murder to scare new voters. This helped more affluent whites start to get their positions back in government, and political power remained under their influence until after the Civil Rights Movement. 

Klan power peaked in North and South Carolina around 1870 but KKK membership continued to grow in times of racial or economic conflict, including the 1920s and during the Civil Rights Movement when KKK would become the symbol of racial injustice, intolerance and white supremacy.

It was not uncommon for entire families to go to Klan rallies at times, so it was not unfamiliar to see children present. From an early age, the ideas of the Klan would be instilled into the minds of young children, the parents hoping it will continue into their adult life.  Today the Klan still exists with the same ideas, but nowhere near the strength of the pre-civil rights era.

We tell this story in our main exhibit Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers at the museum making it a major factor for choosing the striking picture of the little girl at the rally.  

The picture of the lone girl resonates: So what do you say about this photo?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fighting for Justice and the end of Plessy v. Ferguson

Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine was a schoolteacher in Summerton, SC. He saw how the students in his school were consistently underrepresented. He requested there be a bus for black students, making it more convenient for the children to get to school, but was denied. With his standing in the school community, he hoped that he would be able to change system. Because he was denied by the school board, he bought a bus for the children at his school, spending his own money. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to keep it due to the expenses. He was stuck knowing the laws set in place discriminated against African Americans, but there seemed to be little he could do, even with his standing in the community.

In a grassroots fashion, and with DeLaine's support, Levi Pearson, a black mother whose children walked daily to the school, challenged the law in court. In 1951, the official challenge of the separate but equal court ruling was heard in Charleston, SC. The court case Briggs v. Elliot made it to the Supreme Courts but was pushed to lower courts after the hearing.  

The DeLaine's at their home after the fire.
Many people who were involved in the court cases lost their jobs or were harassed in their community due to the nature of the case. Reverend DeLaine's house was burned to the ground. Eventually in 1954 The Supreme Court would hear the case Brown v.s. Board of Education, which combined five court cases to address the issue of separate but equal; Briggs v. Elliot being one of those five. The court case was won, overthrowing the separate but equal national court ruling established by Plessy v. Ferguson. Thurgood Marshall was the attorney who successfully argued for the court case. The decision to use the Topeka Kansas Board of Education court case, was in hopes to show the nation that Rev. DeLain's case, and the discrimination against black people, was not just a southern problem. The case showed that segregation was a nation wide issue, and by official law and help from Rev. DeLaine, was made illegal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rev. J.A. DeLaine- His story is History

Much of the civil rights movement cried for peace and equality on all levels- especially with the children of this era. Individuals like Reverend J.A. DeLaine did just that!
(Photo of J.A. DeLaine; courtesy of

Living with other blacks in a rural part of South Carolina, he saw the injustices that children faced with the segregated bus systems. These injustices fueled the fire that would soon leave a mark on the Supreme Courts records forever.

Segregated Bus circa 1950 (Image source: New Raleigh) 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Richard Petty: the King.

A young and happy Richard Petty, with his car in the 1960s.   
Born in Level Cross North Carolina, Richard Petty was a second generation race car driver. His father was a driver, winning the Dayton 500 in 1959.

RIchard Petty (left.)
During the 1960s, Richard’s racing career took off. Because of his ability to seemingly break any record and win hundreds of the races he competed in, it got Richard the nickname "The King."

"The King" in his early racing days. 
Richard started more races, won more races, and made more money than any other stock car driver in history.
Petty's Plymouth Barracuda dragracer.
Petty after his win at Daytona in 1979.
After his retirement, he went into commentating for a few seasons and was very successful. He then went on to opening his own motorsports company. Petty Enterprises opened and was operated by the Petty family until 2008 when it was purchased by Gillet-Evernham Motorsports and renamed Richard Petty Motorsports. It would change hands again, but it never diminished the reputation of the team. 

The Richard Petty Motorsports logo.
Richard Petty with his famous hat and shades!  One Facebook Fan stated "He even wears his hat into his doctors' offices. Only those doing procedures see him without it!"
Today Richard Petty is a NASCAR Hall of Famer. He also speaks out for many charities and sponsors.
The Victory Junction camp logo.
One of the major charities supported by Richard Petty is Victory Junction. Adam Petty, Richard's grandson, had the idea of this camp after visiting a similar camp. When Adam was killed in a crash during a practice run, his mother and father, Kyle and Pattie, took over the idea and transformed it into Victory Junction. Richard Petty was a co- founder of this organization, and donated the land that the camp resides on.

Thanks for the comments and posts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as for continuing to follow the blog.

If you would like to know more information about Richard Petty or the charities he sponsors, check out the following links!