CSU Students Contribute to Columbus Museum Civil Rights Exhibit

January 14, 2022

The Columbus Museum’s latest exhibit, Journey Toward Justice: The Civil Rights Movement in the Chattahoochee Valley, will feature the research and work of several Columbus State University students.

Students in Dr. Gary Sprayberry’s “Civil Rights Movement/Black Power” Fall Class of 2021 conducted research and provided content for the exhibit panels and exhibit guide. The class explored the American civil rights movement, the rise of militancy in the 1960s, the origins of Reconstruction, and the rise of segregation. The nine students who worked on the project each focused on different aspects of the movement.

“One of my contributions was an essay on the First African Baptist Church. I’ve written about its history and its significance to Columbus,” said history major Lucy Clarke. “I think it’s important to contextualize this so that people really understand why it’s so relevant today and it’s a long-standing presence throughout American history.”

Shaena Wooten, a history major, said the exhibit shines a light on lesser-known leaders and stories of the time.

“When people think of nonviolent civil rights campaigns, they automatically think of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Selma march. But people don’t realize that actions were happening everywhere, including places like Columbus,” she said. “We had so many leaders who were part of the movement who contributed in smaller ways to really bring the whole picture together.”

Sprayberry said the experience students gain helps prepare them for their careers.

“It’s pretty rare for undergraduates to graduate in history and come away with a publication,” he said. “I certainly didn’t understand that when I was in undergrad. I think the students in the class were really inspired and did a great job. »

The exhibition will cover topics such as the effects of Jim Crow segregation, the role of black institutions as a source of community pride, the influence of Fort Benning in the region, the cycle of generational violence to which activists have been faced and the continuation of civil rights activism in the 21st century. More than 160 artifacts, documents and images will be on display, including several from the archives of Columbus State University. The Archives lent materials including newspaper clippings, a Columbus College yearbook, and Ku Klux Klan membership cards.

“I think the civil rights movement wouldn’t have succeeded if ordinary people hadn’t decided to take a stand for justice and equality,” Sprayberry said. “It’s like a tapestry and the story of Christopher Columbus is just a common thread. Until all of these little stories are told, we won’t have the full story of the movement.

“I believe local history is very important,” Wooten said. “It took more than the three to five people we learn to start with in elementary school to contribute and make a movement.”

The exhibition will be on display until October 16. Admission to the Columbus Museum is free with a suggested donation. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

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