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Arts and Entertainment

'Destination Freedom' looks at civil rights milestones
Levine Museum launches two-year series of exhibits, programs
 
Published Tuesday, August 27, 2013 2:00 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

clientuploads/v38n13photos/Harvey Gantt_300.jpg
LEVINE MUSEUM OF THE NEW SOUTH
A young Harvey Gantt, surrounded by reporters as he became the first black student to attend Clemson University in 1963. Gantt made history again by becoming Charlotte's first African-American mayor. 

The years 2013-15 mark the 50th anniversaries of some of the most pivotal moments in the civil rights movement, including the March on Washington, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that claimed the lives of four girls in Birmingham, Ala., on September 15, 1963.

Levine Museum of the New South is commemorating these historic milestones among others by launching a two-year series of exhibits, new media, programs and dialogues examining the legacies of the Civil Rights movement and drawing connections to today’s struggles.

“We are hoping that folks will look back at that history and consider what’s undone and needs to be done still,” said Levine Museum historian Tom Hanchett.

 “Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Struggles Then and Now” opened to the public Aug. 24.

Exhibits include “Network of Mutuality: 50 years Post-Birmingham,” which examines the conditions and components that energized the Civil Rights movement, and “View from the Other Side,” a presentation of works by local artists and students inspired by civil and human rights issues.

The third exhibit, “Focus on Justice,” documents the regional movement through the eyes of Carolina photographers, including African-American photographer James Peeler.

“He was one of the major people documenting the Civil Rights movement here in Charlotte,” said Hanchett. “To me, the highlight photo is one of Rev. Martin Luther King giving a speech here on Sept. 25, 1960. And it actually turns out to be one of the speeches that foreshadowed his ‘I have a Dream’ speech.

“King said, ‘America is essentially a dream, a dream yet unfulfilled. I dream of a land where men of all races, colors and creeds live together.’”

Hanchett said another powerful image from “Focus on Justice” is a photograph of Charlotte’s first African-American mayor, Harvey Gantt, on the day he integrated Clemson University. Cecil Williams, an African-American photographer from South Carolina, captured the image.

“You see this young guy in his 20s surrounded by all of this media,” said Hanchett. “And he just carried his head high and moved through it.”

After viewing the exhibits, Hanchett said the goal is for visitors to ponder two specific questions: What lessons does history offer us today? And what work is still needed to win equality for all?

As part of Destination Freedom project, Levine Museum is screening Spike Lee’s “Four Little Girls” about the four families who lost children the day the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed. Two screenings are scheduled for Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 8 at 2:30 p.m. Both are free to attend. RSVP by calling (704) 333-1887 ext. 501 or rsvp@museumofthenewsouth.org.

September 15 is the actual date of 50th anniversary of the bombing. Levine Museum is commemorating the day with an afternoon of conversation and reflection moderated by North Carolina Central University scholar and “Legal Eagle Review” co-host Irving Joyner starting at 3 p.m.

The day of pubic programming will serve as the official kick-off for Destination Freedom. Hanchett said the date was chosen because the historic tragedy was the catalyst that caused the entire nation to pay attention to the struggle for Civil Rights.

“It’s such a powerful important part of Civil Rights history,” said Hanchett. “This is a way for people here to express the emotions that are kicked up by something like that.”

Panelists for the event include Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee member and Raleigh Hall of Fame inductee David Forbes, United for the Dream activist Juan Carlos-Ramos, KIPP Charlotte Director Tiffany Flowers, LGBT historian Joshua Burford, Latanya Johnson of the Sycamore Project and Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, who participated in the 1957 Desegregation of Harding High School.

The evening’s keynote speech will be delivered at 6 p.m. by SNCC co-founder Diane Nash across from the museum at First United Presbyterian Church.

The event is free to attend. RSVP by calling (704) 333-1887 ext. 501 or rsvp@museumofthenewsouth.org.

Sept. 30 at 7 p.m., Levine Museum is hosting an evening with noted Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at McGlohon Theater in Spirit Square. Gates will discuss his work and research. He will also show advance highlights from his upcoming television series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.” The six-part series chronicles the full trajectory of African-American history and will premier Oct. 22 on PBS.

Admission is free. To reserve tickets, call (704) 333-1887 ext. 250.

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