Exhibit: Civil Rights as Agents of Change
Available: Through March 1, 2013
Description: Americans have debated the scope and meaning of civil rights since 1789, when James Madison submitted to Congress the legislation that eventually formed the Bill of Rights. While the Bill of Rights asserted fundamental protections from discrimination or repression, precise definitions regarding the scope of those protections have been elusive. Our perceptions of civil rights have changed over time through a variety of judicial tests and decisions, often in response to political actions or events.
This exhibit seeks to begin remembrances of one of the most creative and divisive periods in American political and legal history, starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to the war, labor, and civil rights protests of the later 1960’s; the American Indian Movement of the 1970’s, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. While these monumental legislative efforts established principles of freedom, citizens continued to define, defend and exercise those freedoms through activism, political action, legislation and litigation. These defenders of freedom often made substantial personal sacrifices and sometimes risked arrest, injury or financial ruin.
Several events and activities presented here through archival texts, photographs, publications and research illustrate the challenges of reaching a common social and legal understanding of civil rights. Several events from the 1970’s and the present day reveal similarities and differences in how we have perceived and exercised rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Archival materials selected from the Chicano/a Research Collection, the University Archives, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center, the Child Drama Collection and Special Collections offer a glimpse of the drama and complexity surrounding civil rights in America. Materials loaned to us by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona place specific events in the context of their work over the last fifty years. We hope our materials can serve as suggestions for further research and discussion that will help us honor and remember all those who have worked to defend our most basic rights.