The traveling exhibit looks at the role that Tennessee students played in shaping the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The thought-provoking display is said to put these “foot soldiers” in their rightful place in history through powerful photographs, artifacts, and an exciting eight-minute film from the sit-ins, according to Museum Director Lisa Simpson Lutts.
Explaining why she wanted this milestone exhibit at Cleveland’s museum, Lutts said, “The Museum Center is honored to host this exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee. We believe that individuals of all races, both young and old, will gain a deeper understanding of this transforming time in America’s history and the role that African-American students from Tennessee played to bring about these needed changes.
“We also look forward to this exhibit being a time for African-American’s in Cleveland to be able to tell their own stories of integration in our two public programs in June.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, African-Americans began mobilizing in a massive movement against segregation. This included nonviolent, direct action campaigns, which culminated in sit-in demonstrations, economic boycotts and marches across the country.
It was 51 years ago when a handful of Nashville college students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (Later Tennessee State), and American Baptist Theological Seminary, along with religious leaders Kelly Miller Smith and James Lawson, began a sit-in campaign targeting downtown lunch counters.
These actions sparked the formation of a mass sit-in movement, which became the model used across Tennessee and the rest of the South.
Visitors to the traveling exhibit from the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville will be able to view photos of these sit-ins, which took place in such Tennessee communities as Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.
Lutts said they will also see actual items from some of the lunchrooms, view items from nonviolent demonstrations and watch original news footage from Nashville during the 1960s.
“It was these sit-ins and other nonviolent actions that served as an example and catalyst for the rest of the movement and helped usher in a season of social change that led to the desegregation of the South,” said Lutts.
In addition to the eye-opening exhibition, the museum will be co-hosting a series of education programs to enhance learning throughout the “We Shall Not be Moved” exhibition. These education programs include the Freedom Riders documentary on June 14 at 6:30 p.m. and are free of charge.
The public is invited to come and watch this two-hour documentary by PBS about the six months in 1961 that changed America forever when more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives by traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.
Following the documentary there will be a Q&A session led by Dr. Bryan Reed of Cleveland State Community College.
The Museum Center will also feature “We Shall Not be Moved: Cleveland Experiences Integration” on June 21 at 6:30 p.m. This event is also free of charge.
According to Lutts, this will be “a moving night of oral history by those who integrated Cleveland’s restaurants and public places in the early 1960s.”
All are invited to share their stories during this free evening of remembering. The museum will be open at 6 p.m. for those wishing to view the exhibit at regular admission costs.
These education programs are co-sponsored at the Museum Center with the NAACP of Bradley County and the 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc. To learn more about these programs please call the Museum at 339-5745 and ask for Tracy.
The Museum Center at Five Points preserves and interprets the history and culture of the Ocoee District of Southeast Tennessee. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5. Groups of 12 or more are $4 each. The Museum is free the first Saturday of each month. Members of the Museum Center receive free admission. For further information visit www.MuseumCenter.org.