`In Search of African America:  One Collector's Experience January 17-March 21, 2004

Few Americans will ever forget the power and the eloquence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August, 1963. Dr. King expressed the hopes of a people and a nation when he intoned his hope for equality among all people.

Dr. King could look back on fifteen years of on-going struggle by African Americans to gain the rights guaranteed in the Constitution but denied to them in practice. Beginning in 1947, African Americans worked diligently to break the bonds of racism and prejudice. They succeeded in integrating the U.S. armed forces, public transportation, professional sports, and the public schools among other social institutions.

And yet these successes were compromised by rampant segregation of public and private facilities in the South and elsewhere across the nation. Thanks to the courage of Rosa Parks, a woman who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1956, the civil rights revolution was born. Throughout the last half of the 1950s, the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee conducted marches, boycotts and protests to assert their rights.

Their reward was the support of millions of Americans, as well as government integration of high schools in Little Rock and colleges in Mississippi and Alabama; establishment of a U.S. Civil Rights Commission; and the passage of landmark legislation in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
African Americans continued to excel in every field. Ralph Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 and Gwendolyn Brooks was the first person of color to receive the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell dominated dance. Leontyne Price excelled at opera. And music was overwhelmed by the likes of Miles Davis and Chuck Berry among others.

But this two decade period came to a crashing end with violent riots in major cities all across the country in 1967 and the brutal assassination of Dr. King in Memphis in 1968. It was as if hope had been sucked out of the struggle for civil rights. Anger would predominate for more than a decade.

The Civil Rights Era
1947-1968

 


Civil Rights section of the exhibit
Civil Rights section of the exhibit

In this photo:
--The Civil Rights section of the exhibit

 

 
This exhibit is divided into 10 sections

1. Introduction
--The James Hicks Collection

2. The Burden of Slavery, 1619-1861

3. The Civil War, 1861-1865
4. The Price of Freedom: Reconstruction, 1865-1877

5. Say Hello To Jim Crow, 1878-1897

6. Up From Slavery: The Self Help Period 1898-1919
7. The Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1946
8. The Civil Rights Era, 1947-1968 (you are here)
9. The Black Power Movement, 1968-1980
10. The Turn of the Century, 1981-2004
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