Exhibit commemorating civil rights marches opens at LBJ Library

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Social work professor Yolanda Padilla’s UGS class ‘How To Change the World’ tours the March to Freedom exhibit at the Lyndon Baynes Johnson Presidential Library on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

An exhibit honoring the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, one of America’s most pivotal civil rights events, is now on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. 

The first half of the exhibit, “March to Freedom,” features photos, documents and videos from the Selma-to-Montgomery marches that occurred from March 7–25, 1965. The marches, which civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis led, were vital to the national support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that ultimately led to its passage. 

The second half of the exhibit displays photos from the 2014 Civil Rights Summit in Austin, which took place at the LBJ Library. President Barack Obama and Lewis, who is now a U.S. representative from Georgia, both attended the Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Don Carleton — the executive director of the Briscoe Center for American History, which houses many of the photos that were selected for the exhibit — said it was symbolic to show photos from both the 1965 marches and the Civil Rights Summit. 

“There’s beautiful symmetry in having a photo [at the exhibit] of John Lewis, who was beaten in those marches, hugging President Obama 50 years later,” Carleton said. “[The University] has been in the business of promoting African-American history and documenting it for a long time.” 

The exhibit has a powerful message that should reach American generations both past and present, according to Ben Wright, public affairs officer for the Briscoe Center. 

“The photos, images and documents are a reminder to us all about the triumphs and tragedy of the 1960s and of the civil rights movement,” said Wright. “There was horrendous brutality and intimidation, and, yet, there is also encouragement, hope and progress. We see those together in the exhibit.”

Displays such as “March to Freedom” create a more inclusive university environment for underrepresented minority students, said Khady Diack, a human development and family sciences junior and member of UT’s Afrikan Americans Affairs organization.

“I feel like, [at UT], I am very unrepresented since African-Americans are less than 5 percent of the total University population,” Diack said. “To have a bit of our history displayed and represented is very important.”

Diack said she believes UT could do more to represent African-Americans.

“I want the University to do more things like this because one of the reasons more African-Americans don’t come here is because they feel like it’s an underrepresented community,” Diack said.

The exhibit will be on display until April 12.