August 2, 2013
Make Some Noise

"Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement" (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

Visitors 'Make Some Noise' about Newseum's Civil Rights Exhibits

WASHINGTON — The Newseum opened two new exhibits Aug. 2 on the U.S. civil rights movement that highlighted the contributions and struggles of students.

With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaching on Aug. 28, the timely exhibits underscore how organizers in the movement used the media to garner public support.

"Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement" takes visitors through a timeline of events that defined the movement and its student organizers, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

One quotation featured in "Make Some Noise" from Rep. John Lewis, SNCC chair from 1963 to 1966, tells the story well: "Without the media, the civil rights movement would have been a bird without wings," Lewis said. Bringing the fight to America's front pages, the press made an impact on the movement, and as a result, reporters were threatened with violence and were attacked for spreading the word of injustice. Broadcast news reports were particularly instrumental in turning regional struggles into national concerns.

Notable artifacts of civil rights history have a home in the new exhibit, including a section of the F.W. Woolworth lunch counter where North Carolina students started sit-in protests in 1960, and a casting of the jail cell door behind which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. authored the seminal "Letter From Birmingham Jail" in 1963.

Jim Deleonardis of Miami, Fla., recalled being required to use a segregated water fountain at his integrated school and said he watched the coverage of the civil rights movement while growing up in West Virginia. Deleonardis said the exhibit brought back memories about how "the news was mostly one-sided, especially in the South."

Adjacent to "Make Some Noise," the "Civil Rights at 50" exhibit of newspaper front pages and magazine covers, captures the turbulence of the 1963 through events such as the Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala., and the assassination in Mississippi of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The display shows media coverage as it really happened, including press biases and prejudices. "Civil Rights at 50" will be updated in 2014 and 2015.

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