Saturday, August 24, 2013

Destination Freedom...Pivotal Moments in 1963

The Civil Rights Movement is considered the pivotal moment of the 20th century.
1963 is considered a turning point of the Civil Rights Movement.

There are many reasons why:

On April 12, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is put in a Birmingham city jail. His arrest and the critique from fellow clergymen urging protesters to take change "slow," prompted Dr. King to write the now widely known, "A Letter from a Birmingham City Jail." This letter, in short, advocated for Dr. King's philosophy of nonviolent direct action.  In the opening pages he writes:

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Today, Levine Museum begins hosting an artistic response exhibit that bears the title of "Network of Mutuality: 50 Years Post-Birmingham," as an homage to Dr. King's words. The exhibit looks forward to the state of civil rights today; 50 years later. However, in 1963, as a direct result of this letter, one month after his arrest, groups of school children committed their bodies for civil disobedience.
The Children’s March of May 1963, was a symbolic and awful moment in Civil Rights history. Eugene “Bull” Connor, then the Public Safety Commissioner of Birmingham, let loose his anger in the form of dogs and the dousing of the children with powerful fire hoses. Televised nightly on the news, the callous nature of his violence immediately shook the world including a statement by President John F. Kennedy saying this “made me sick to my stomach.”

Dr. King’s statement about the inter-relatedness of all people resonated in the reactions to images from Birmingham.

Police turned attack dogs and fire hoses on Birmingham city
protesters, many of them children and teens in May of 1963.
The horrific images were captured by news cameras and
covered all over the world.

Other dates important to the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 included: 
·         May 29-31, after the threat of protest from  Reginald Hawkins, Charlotte business and government leaders stage biracial eat-ins to desegregate dining in Charlotte’s leading restaurants
·         June 11: Alabama Governor George Wallace stands in the schoolhouse door to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood, two black students, from enrolling in the University of Alabama. President Kennedy orders him aside with federal integration orders and later appears on television condemning segregation and discrimination while expressing his intent to submit a new Civil Rights Bill.
·         June 12: Medgar Evers, NAACP field secretary in Mississippi, is murdered outside his home. No one is convicted until 30 years later.

·         On August 281963, 250,000 people all of them very different in many ways gathered for one singular cause: equality. Whether it was equality in schools or in the workplace the overarching theme was the liberation of colored folk from the fetters of Jim Crow.  Dr. King, after his tumultuous year, came to Washington DC with his “I Have a Dream Speech” prepared. The speech, along with many others in history, has stood the test of time.

·         September 15 marks one of the most somber events of the Civil Rights Movement when an average Sunday turned for the worst. A bomb was placed in the foundation of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the explosion left four little girls dead.  Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins were killed on that infamous day. The church had been a hotbed of meeting grounds during the 1960’s which was why it was a prime location for the firebomb.
·         A final major event of 1963 was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was then a big proponent of the passage of a civil rights bill.  He was murdered on November 22nd while in Dallas, Texas, on a presidential campaign visit.  After his assassination his plan of passing a civil rights legislation was continued and finally enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson, first with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 then by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The former outlaws the discrimination in schools and the workplace that ran rampant during the era of Jim Crow and the latter prohibited the discrimination at the polls.

As we look back at the events of 1963, they leave room to consider how our issues “then” coincide with issues “now.” 
Are we living in a post-racial society? 
Is there no more discrimination in schools? At the polls?
Is “Jim Crow” really gone?
For some artists’ answers to these questions, come view the exhibit Network of Mutuality: 50 Years Post-Birmingham among other exhibits, opening today at Levine Museum.
Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, and on Twitter @LevineMuseum.  Follow along with the hashtag #DestinationFreedom
Today there will also be a commemorative march in Washington, DC honoring the landmark March on Washington which took place on August 28, 1963.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Struggles Then and Now

2013 marks the year of many anniversaries of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. The most famous of these anniversaries will include the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream" speech.
Dr. King, March on Washington, 1963

To commemorate that event and the various other civil rights anniversaries from Alabama to Mississippi to North Carolina, Levine Museum of the New South will begin a series of exhibitions and programs known as Destination Freedom that will highlight the aims of the Civil Rights movement then, and the issues we face today.

Destination Freedom will create a cohesive history of the movement for civil rights and the parallels to today. One exhibit in the series, Network of Mutuality: 50 Years Post-Birmingham will be the first that will bring to life—through art—what Birmingham in 1963 meant for the nation. This exhibit will coincide with our film series that will document many different facets of the movement.

With movies such as "4 Little Girls," (screenings are scheduled for Sept. 5 and 8) which tells of the life of the tragic death of 4 little girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the film series offers a chance to learn about history and then participate in discussions with community members and scholars about what the stories can teach us.

To raise the banner about all of our programming, one month from today on September 15, the Levine Museum will host its Destination Freedom kickoff; featuring keynote speaker Diane Nash, former SNCC organizer.  Along with Nash there will also be a panel of Civil Rights activists representing “then” and “now.”  All will share their stories of activism during the 1960’s and what the fight looks like today.

Want to attend the opening? Visit us on Facebook to get more Destination Freedom details.

Join the conversation and exploration of civil rights (then and now) on Twitter @LevineMuseum. Follow along using the hashtag #DestinationFreedom