Measuring Deliberate Speed: Georgians Face School Desegregation is the culmination of a year of research and planning by staff at the Russell Library and at the Associated Press Corporate Archives. The exhibit is really two complementary exhibits—one created by the Russell Library to showcase materials in its collections that help to illuminate and explain the tactics, rhetoric, and reactions of Georgians to federal school desegregation mandates, and one created by the Associated Press Corporate Archives to showcase materials in its archives that reflect the role of the media in the Little Rock Crisis, one of the most important flashpoints in the desegregation battle that gripped the South and the nation.
Visitors to Measuring Deliberate Speed will begin their tour with an overview panel outlining the major themes and approaches of the exhibit. The exhibit is divided into four independent, thematic sections that are arranged in chronological order but which can be explored in any order:
Education in the Jim Crow South: This section focuses on the inequity existent in black and white schools in Georgia in the years leading up to the Brown v. Board decision. It spotlights two early court cases challenging segregated education in Georgia and looks to the early massive resistance efforts led by Governor Herman Talmadge and his administration, designed to head off legal challenges to segregated schools.
Reactions to the Brown Decision: This section examines the initial and entrenched responses of Georgians to the landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas (1954) and Brown II (1955), which ruled, respectively, that segregated schools were “inherently unequal” and should desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” Responses displayed range from court documents to political statements, constituent correspondence to newspaper headlines from across the state.
Little Rock Rocks Georgia: This section offers the responses of politicians and average citizens to the Little Rock crisis. Notable objects include a telegram exchange between Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, regarding the use of federal troops in Little Rock. The constituent letters on display offer a sampling of the wide range of concerns on the minds of white Georgians in the midst of this historic event.
Facing Change and Choice: How did Georgians respond to school desegregation in the wake of Little Rock? This sections looks to the words, laws, and actions employed from 1958 until courts ordered the desegregation of public secondary schools and higher education in the state, in 1960 and 1961 respectively. Objects in this area focus on the responses of average citizens: community petitions, poems, letters, and surveys that constituents used to express their concerns to elected leaders and fellow Georgians.
Each section is paired with an AV listening station which plays a combination of news footage and interviews describing key events and key players from the time period. Clips are provided courtesy of the Richard B. Russell Library, the Walter J. Brown Media Archives, and the Foot Soldier Project.
The second exhibit -- All Deliberate Speed: The AP in Little Rock – is also on display in the main gallery space. Developed by the Associated Press Corporate Archives, All Deliberate Speed serves here as a companion exhibit that explores how the news agency prepared for and covered Little Rock and its reverberations throughout the South. The AP had never faced a more difficult test of its mission to serve all members equally with objective, timely reporting than it did covering desegregation in Little Rock. Using news clippings, photographs, and correspondence, this exhibit captures a moment in time and demonstrates the legacy this event created for journalists everywhere.
Visitors can wrap up their tour in the exhibit’s reading and reflection library space. Here they can find resources to further investigate topics addressed in the exhibit, including guides to researching the Civil Rights Era in the UGA Libraries and a bibliography of sources. In this quiet space, visitors can also reflect on the exhibit and its themes, and share their experiences with other visitors through conversation and written commentary.