Friday, October 11
“50 Years Forward,” a national collaborative Civil Rights traveling exhibit, is now open to the public at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Telling the American Civil Rights story of seven southern cities, the exhibit sheds light on this pivotal, and at moments volatile, time in our nation’s history.
“More than fifty years ago, Columbia and communities across the nation emerged as battlegrounds of change as African Americans raised their voices and stood firm against the prevailing winds of intolerance and discrimination,” said Dr. Bobby Donaldson, University of South Carolina historian and the lead researcher for the Columbia SC 63 project. “It is fitting that we remember and honor the countless men and women who dared to imagine a different future for our country.”
The exhibit, now in its seventh location, has been on display in Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Washington, D.C., all of which are the sister cities participating in the recognition of the year-long commemoration of the Civil Rights movement of 1963.
Originating from a joint initiative by the mayors of those sister cities in 2012, the exhibit connects the dots between the cities’ stories and overarching themes seen throughout this era. With strong emphasis on the role news media played in the movement, politics, law enforcement, sit-ins and protests, music and the church, the exhibit allows guests to learn of many untold stories and events.
“Whether you’re talking about Sarah Mae Flemming fighting segregation on public buses more than a year before Rosa Parks, or the Supreme Court’s landmark Edwards v. South Carolina decision, the struggle for equality here in Columbia helped set the stage for the American Civil Rights movement,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “As part of our year-long initiative, this exhibit not only celebrates our story, but teaches a new generation how that story changed the world.”
A number of the artifacts included in the exhibit are from the South Carolina State Museum’s permanent collection and South Caroliniana Library at The University of South Carolina, including era specific political buttons and a stool from the Kress lunch counter, the site of many protests.
“There are so many stories to tell,” said Donaldson. “That is why it is incumbent upon us to document and share the incredible struggles and sacrifices that made the Civil Rights movement in Columbia and elsewhere possible.”
The exhibit, located on the main concourse of the convention center, is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., and will remain on display until October 30th. For more information about the exhibit or to speak with a representative, please visit ColumbiaSC63.com.