How New York’s Union Square Helped Shape Free Speech in the U.S.

New York’s Union Square is an important site in American labor history. One scholar’s research illustrates the shifting meanings and inherent tensions of public space as an epicenter of civic life. Introduction Public space is an essential component of democratic cities. Modelled on the agora of ancient Greece, it is a marketplace for the exchange of goods[…]

The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Urban North

Exploring relationships between the Great Migration and the civil rights struggle in northern cities and, especially, Chicago from the 1920s through the 1960s. Introduction The history of civil rights in the twentieth-century United States is inseparable from the history of the Great Migration. From the end of World War I through the 1970s, extraordinary numbers[…]

Commemoration, Race, and World War II: History and Civil Rights at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

History and civil rights are intertwined at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. Introduction Moton Field was a training flight facility for African American pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, operating from 1941–45. Through the extant buildings and interpretive exhibits, the National Park[…]

Elegy and Effigy: The Struggle for Integration

The similarities between the effigies of James Meredith and the thousands of black bodies hanged and burned by southern lynch mobs over the years were intentional. An effigy dangled outside the second-story window of Vardaman Hall, a men’s dormitory on the University of Mississippi campus. Its head crooked from the rope tied around its neck,[…]

The Voices of Civil Rights

Photographs documenting pivotal events in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Overview This exhibition draws from the individual accounts and oral histories collected by the Voices of Civil Rights project, a collaborative effort of AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Library of Congress. The exhibition celebrates the donation[…]

James Byrd, Jr., John William King, and the History of American Lynching

We need a historical understanding of how lynching discourse continues to shape America’s enduring “dialogue on race.” In February, 1999, John William King – who was executed in Huntsville, Texas on April 24, 2019 –became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person.  How that black person, James Byrd,[…]

Creating a Digital Museum to Memorialize America’s Slave Past

Art historian Renée Ater reflects on how pain and reconciliation coexist at the Contraband and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial in Virginia and other monuments to slavery. By Chelika Yapa Scholar James Young once posed this provocative question: How does a nation memorialize a past it might rather forget? Art historian Renée Ater is exploring this question[…]

Why Abolitionist Frederick Douglass Loved the Photograph

He considered it the most democratic of arts and a crucial aid in the quest to end slavery and achieve civil rights. Suddenly, it seems, the camera has become a potent weapon in what many see as the beginning of a new civil rights movement. It’s become a familiar tale: Increasingly, blacks won’t leave home[…]

Present Tense, Future Perfect: Protest and Progress at the 1964 World’s Fair

“Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures.” If every Negro in New York                                       cruised over the Fairin his fan-jet plane                    and ran out of fuel                                        the Worldwould really learn something about the affluent                                                                 society.The stink of the fire hydrant[…]