News

    Traveling Exhibit Commemorates Voices of US Civil Rights Movement - 2004-09-02

    The major struggle for civil rights came to a head in the 1950s and early 1960's in the United States. The movement was given a major boost 50 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, struck down segregation in schools. Then, 40 years ago, the Civil Rights Act became law, wiping away almost all remaining forms of racial discrimination in the United States. To commemorate these events, a bus is now travelling around the country collecting and recording the stories of people who played a role in the epic civil rights movement.

    The project is called "Voices of Civil Rights." While much has been written about the major players in that struggle, there are still many accounts by ordinary people that have yet to be documented. And that's the goal of this journey, to build the world's largest archive of personal memories and firsthand accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. When complete, these stories will be housed permanently in the Library of Congress in Washington.

    AARP, an organization that represents people over the age of 50, is a major sponsor of the "Voices of Civil Rights" project. Robert Lampkin, its Associate State Director, is heading the effort here in Texas. He says young people, in particular, need to hear these stories so they can understand what the civil rights struggle accomplished. He says even he, as a black man, did not fully realize what that time was like until older people in his own community here in Houston told him stories about a nearby outdoor movie theater that was once for whites only.

    "When I was there, and I am 45, when I went to the movie theater it was open to the general public," says Mr. Lampkin. "You talk to some of these individuals and they will tell you how they longed to go to this theater and how their white friends had to put them in the trunks of their cars just to get them into this drive-in theater. That is right here in Houston, right here in my neighborhood. But it also speaks to the progress we have made. We still have a lot of work to do, but we have also made a lot of progress and we have to always talk about accomplishments and the gains we have made."

    The people who gathered at a "Voices of Civil Rights" luncheon in Houston represented every ethnic and racial group in the city. One speaker, Jose Maldonado, reminded the audience that, in Texas, there was discrimination against brown-skinned Mexican-Americans as well as blacks before the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

    "I used to catch the bus to come to Rosenberg and visit my grandfather, he was still living on the farm," says Mr. Maldonado. "Here I am, a junior high school student and I used to get on the bus and once we passed El Campo I was not sure whether to go to the bathroom in the one that was marked 'colored' or 'white.' Because every community was different in how they looked at Mexican-Americans. That impacted me the rest of my life. It motivated me to be a stereotype breaker. All the stereotypes you hear about Latinos... one of my motivations has been to break those, to make sure that everybody knows that we are as good as anybody else."

    One of the people honored at the event was a middle-class white woman named Lisa Lum, who opened her home near Washington D.C. to civil rights marchers who had come from all around the country for the 1963 gathering at the Lincoln Memorial. Ms. Lum says her part in this event was small, but it challenged some of the attitudes of her white neighbors.

    "At the end of it, about 10 in the morning when they had all cleared out, a neighbor came over and asked, 'How could you have those people in your house?' I marched her to the tarmac out in front of the house, to the street. We had a little heated conversation. I said, 'It is my house and I will have them if I like and I may have them here again tonight.' Of course, they had all dispersed by that night. So that was my little march for civil rights. I asserted myself with this lady," says Ms. Lum.

    Lisa Lum, who later lived in various other parts of the South before settling in Houston, says she believes much of the civil rights movement was about taking a simple clear stand against people she describes as "bullies." She says most white people did not feel comfortable with segregation, but they went along with it until the courage of a few strong leaders forced a change.

    The "Voices of Civil Rights" bus tour began August 3 and will continue criss-crossing the nation until October 16. In all, the bus will have visited 22 states and 35 cities before bringing back its treasure trove of stories to the Library of Congress.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora