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Newseum Exhibit Honors the Civil Rights Movement

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/2/2013, 9 a.m.
The Newseum opened Friday a civil rights exhibit that explores the new generation of student leaders in the early 1960s ...
The Newseum on Aug. 2 opened "Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement," a civil rights exhibit that explores the new generation of student leaders in the early 1960s who fought segregation by exercising their First Amendment rights and making their voices heard.

Nineteen hundred and sixty three proved to be a seminal year for America and African Americans.

More than 250,000 people from around the country converged upon the nation’s capital to take part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; the civil rights movement was in full swing with students actively engaged in boycotts, demonstrations, marches and sit-ins at lunch counters in cities large and small around the south; black and white Freedom Riders braved virulent racists in an effort to topple segregation in interstate travel; an assassin gunned down civil rights martyr Medgar Evers in his driveway; and four little girls were killed after a bomb tore through the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

In addition, President John F. Kennedy made an unprecedented speech on Civil Rights where he promised to seek a new Civil Rights bill.

To commemorate this monumental year of struggle and change, the Newseum located in Northwest, opened an exhibit on Aug. 2, just prior to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Titled “Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement,” the exhibit explores the new generation of student leaders in the early 1960s who battled segregation by exercising their First Amendment rights and definitely made their voices heard.

“A lot of things happened in 1963,” said Jonathan Thompson, the Newseum’s director of communications.

The exhibit spotlights key figures in the student civil rights movement, including former D.C. Mayor and current Ward 8 Council member Marion S. Barry; Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.); Bob Moses, a seminal figure in the planning, strategy and organizing of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Jim Bevel; Julian Bond, who served as chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Stokely Carmichael. It was through SNCC that young activists used direct action to defer and bring an end to segregation and break down the varied racial barriers erected in voting rights, education and the workplace.

The exhibit includes a section of the original F.W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where in 1960 four African-American college students launched the sit-in movement, as well as a bronze casting of the Birmingham, Ala., jail cell door from where the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., penned his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in 1963.

One of the statements in the exhibit comes from Lewis, who said, “Without the media, the Civil Rights movement would have been a bird without wings.”

To that end, Thompson said, the Newseum will host a series of panel discussions and special events relating to civil rights and the roles the First Amendment and the news media played in that movement. These will be held throughout the year. In addition, the Newseum plans to make civil rights educational resources available for teachers around the world through its digital classroom.

On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Newseum, in partnership with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), will host a free evening program, "Covering Civil Rights: On the Front Lines." The 7 p.m. program will include a special appearance by Elder Bernice King, chief executive officer of The King Center and daughter of the late Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King. Rev. King will receive the NCNW's 2013 Leadership Award.

Moderated by Sirius XM Radio Host, Joe Madison, the event will also feature a discussion with Simeon Booker, renowned journalist and author of "Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement." Among his many years as a journalist, Booker, 96, chronicled the civil rights story while on the front lines of the struggle. The program is free and open to the public.

The Newseum also plans to launch a three-year changing exhibit, "Civil Rights at 50," which will be updated each year to chronicle milestones in the civil rights movement from 1963-1965 through historic front pages, magazines and news images.