Public invited to open house event at Carson-Newman on Sunday, Jan. 31
Carson-Newman News Office
JEFFERSON CITY – A new exhibit on Carson-Newman University’s campus focuses on the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Student-curated, the display will be housed in the University’s Appalachian Cultural Center throughout the spring semester.
The public is invited to an open house event scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31, from 3-5 p.m.
The “We March with Selma” exhibit is part of the University’s “A Simple Justice: The Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act,” a year-long observance of the historical event.
The U.S. Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965. The act was passed to enforce the 15th Amendment of the Constitution ratified by Congress in 1870. The bill was created to guarantee African-Americans the right to vote and made it illegal to impose restrictions on any federal, state, and local elections that were designed to deny the right to vote to blacks.
Carson-Newman’s Beth Vanlandingham, who helped advise the 30 students who curated the exhibit, believes that students and the general public alike will benefit from the display. “Our goal was to help people understand the role that ordinary people played in bringing about voting rights,” said the associate professor of history.
“There is often a tendency to shoot straight toward Martin Luther King Jr., and he did play an important role, but a lot of groundwork was done by ordinary people who took a lot of risks, and it was those people who had to suffer the consequences if things didn’t go well,” she noted.
From a bomb in Birmingham and marches in Selma, to ambiguous voting tests and echoes of freedom songs, the exhibit takes visitors through a historic journey in American history and the Civil Rights Movement.
For December graduate Darius Childs, the experience of helping with the project as a student was meaningful, as he researched specifically the history and 1965 death of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson for the exhibit.
Childs says he hopes the exhibit will leave a lasting impression on those who visit. “I hope that when people visit they see the sacrifices that not black people made, but that Americans made. Because when you really start studying American history, you can’t separate African-Americans from the United States,” he explained.
“From the time the country was conceived, African-Americans were here, whether enslaved or not, and we were still a part of the fabric of this nation. I just want people to understand the body of work that has been going on for generations in terms of improving relations within the country.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public. After-hours viewings or group visits can be arranged.
For more information, call 865-471-3323.