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The Columbus Museum’s new exhibition, Journey Toward Justice: The Civil Rights Movement in the Chattahoochee Valley, opens on January 15, 2022. This exhibition covers an array of themes and topics including the effects of Jim Crow segregation; the role of Black institutions as a breeding ground for activists; direct public actions that led to the desegregation of public and private spaces; the cycle of generational violence and intimidation that activists faced; and continued civil rights activism in the 21st century. These stories will be told with more than 160 artifacts, documents, and images from nearly a dozen private lenders, as well as the collections of The Columbus Museum and special collections libraries at Columbus State University, the University of Georgia, and Emory University. The exhibition will also feature archival footage of protests and interviews with community members, local civil rights activists, and historians.
“Journey Toward Justice: The Civil Rights Movement in the Chattahoochee Valley is a collaboration between The Columbus Museum and an advisory group of 25 individuals, many of whom participated in Civil Rights actions in our region,” says Columbus Museum Director, Marianne Richter. The group has been meeting with Museum staff monthly to play a key role in shaping the exhibition. “They generously shared their experiences and expertise, offering invaluable guidance, and we are grateful to them. With this exhibition, our intention is to present a factual, nuanced history of the local Civil Rights Movement. We hope the community will visit the exhibition to learn more about this important part of Chattahoochee Valley history.”
Advisory group member, Rasheeda Ali, comments, “As a Columbus native, I’m very proud to have been asked to serve on the panel that compiled the information for this exhibition. It’s important to me that the story of the plight of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement be told as thoroughly and accurately as possible. I’m hoping that this exhibition will spark further studies and follow up exhibitions as there is so much more that can be shared on this subject.”
Cities such as Atlanta, Albany, Montgomery, and Birmingham often dominate discussions of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. However, the Chattahoochee Valley has been the site of regular cycles of civil rights activism, allyship, and backlash throughout the past century. Advances in civil rights that proved significant at the national and state levels happened from the 1940s through the 1970s, and vibrant activism continues in the community today.
“Working with our community to uncover and share Columbus’ civil rights stories has been meaningful and thrilling,” says Columbus Museum Curator of History, Rebecca Bush. “I’m excited for the Museum to play a role in highlighting the Civil Rights Movement in the Chattahoochee Valley – a rich and exciting history that deserves to be remembered alongside the stories of other southern cities.”
There will be a robust slate of programs accompanying this exhibition. An opening celebration will be held on January 15 featuring guided tours for all ages, a collaborative art-making project, and more. On February 17, there will be a roundtable discussion with movement leaders who organized and participated in local direct action in the 1960s. There will be a morning session specifically for high school students and an evening session for the public. Guided tours and workshops will also be available throughout the run of the exhibition to interested schools and community groups.
The exhibition will open on January 15, 2022 and will be on view until October 16, 2022. The exhibition is generously sponsored by Aflac. This project is also supported by Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly.