2015: An Anniversary Year in U.S. Civil Rights

IMG_4920By Tonya Jackson

“2015: An Anniversary Year in U.S. Civil Rights,” is a photographic documentary exhibit by Dr. Susie Jans-Thomas, director of the Civil Rights Research Lab at the University of West Florida. The exhibit chronicles the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Bloody Sunday, the 50th Anniversary March from Selma to Montgomery, the 60th Anniversary of Emmitt Till’s Lynching and Trial, the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the 100th Anniversary of Booker T. Washington’s Death. The reception for this event was held on Thursday, February 18th, and included a presentation by Jans-Thomas.Prior to her presentation, Jans-Thomas gave me a tour of her exhibit, which is the result of her experiences, including her walk from Selma to Montgomery last year. The exhibit begins with her attending the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. This was not her first visit to Selma so she was able to share how through the years the former meeting place for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee has been allowed to succumb to time and is now in ruins. She also shared how historical markers have been erected to help tell some of the stories from the civil rights movement.

Jans-Thomas reminds us that the entire movement was about the right to vote and how citizenship and activism were the driving focus of Bloody Sunday. Along her journey, she took pictures and collected stories. She pointed to one picture and shared the story of a man returning to Selma for the first time since he helped a marcher, who was shot and played dead, on that awful day fifty years earlier. As we continued through the exhibit we came to a picture of the privately owned barn where Emmett Till was tortured and left to die. The exhibit also includes some images from her book Reflections of the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama: a Memoir of the United States Civil Rights Movement.

This free exhibit has much more to offer and is currently being held throughout Black History Month at Voices of Pensacola, 120 Church Street.

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