On January 20, JCU students loaded onto a bus and traveled to the local Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage to visit a special exhibit: “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement.” The 30 students and staff made this trip in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was observed on Monday, Jan. 16. The exhibition featured photographs from the formative years of the Civil Rights Movement, from life in the southern United States to acts of voter suppression and the Freedom Summer.
Upon arrival, students entered an interactive museum experience with an audio companion that narrated the journey through the photograph-lined halls. Some students donned headphones, others held their phone speakers up to their ears, and some simply gazed at the incredible photography. These images ranged from southern landscapes and sharecropping to segregated schools, political marches, and police brutality.
As the students navigated through the exhibit, they were also greeted with full-scale reconstructions of some objects shown in the photographs. One room contained a cross the Ku Klux Klan had burned outside of a voter registration site. Another contained picketing signs with a slew of opposing messages written on them. The second to last room had a truck-bed cage, showing how police would round up protesters during a march.
In the final room of the exhibit, students saw examples of continuing voter suppression in the present day. A graphic on one of the walls depicted a sobering amount of hate groups still active in the United States. Students could also sit and watch a short film about the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2013 case Shelby v. Holder. This case’s result turned over electoral regulatory power from the federal level to the state level, which could result in potential voter suppression in states with previous discriminatory laws.
“The history is still ongoing,” said Selen Zarrelli, JCU’s Director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion. “You don’t realize that until you focus on these topics. It’s important for our institution to continue our awareness and allyship.”
This exhibit helped in that awareness, as it both told the story of the Civil Rights Movement and reminded each student about the ongoing history into the present day.
John Carroll's Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging thanks the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage for providing students free access to this event. You can learn more about the Maltz Museum and its exhibits at https://www.maltzmuseum.org/
JCU's Office of DEIB is also sponsoring a number of events throughout February, honoring Black History Month. For a full list of programming, click here.