About the Weaving Threads of Justice Exhibit
In 2007, the Highlander Research and Education Center commemorated its 75th anniversary with a symposium and the creation of a traveling exhibit that chronicles the many ways in which it has fought for—and continues to fight for—social justice throughout the South and the nation.
The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, an institution dedicated to presenting public programming that encourages research and to providing learning opportunities for the communities it serves, seized the opportunity at hand. Recognizing the historical importance of Highlander, and the ties between its history and the Russell’s collection focus on Georgia politics and culture, Library staff members looked for a way to bring the touring exhibit to Athens.
In partnership with the University of Georgia’s Department of History and the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy, the Athens-Clarke County Public Library, and the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee, the Russell Library secured the exhibit for display from September 14 to November 30, 2008. Curators supplemented the original exhibit with related materials from the Russell Library’s archival collections as well as those from the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and additional images from the Highlander Center archives.
Visitors to Weaving the Threads of Justice: Highlander Center, 1932-2007 begin their tour of the exhibit with a short film about the Highlander Center.
Next, they will have the opportunity to view a series of black and white images coupled with text panels that offer fascinating views of the people, events, and ideas that made the Center one of the most important centers for modern southern activism. The images are drawn from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Highlander Center Collection and the Highlander Center’s own photographic archives. Key artifacts on display include historic film footage documenting the Highlander Folk School’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and a propaganda broadside published by the Georgia Commission on Education in 1957—both part of the Russell Library’s permanent collections.
Another highlight in the exhibit is the gallery’s sound station where visitors can hear recorded samples of the protest songs that played such a crucial role in rallying participants in the labor and civil rights movements.
Visitors can wrap up their tour in the exhibit’s reading and reflection library space. Here they can browse a wide array of publications and guides developed by the Highlander Center on issues related to human rights, social justice, and community activism. 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.
A wonderful complement to the Weaving Threads Exhibit is a small exhibit tracing the life of Highlander’s lesser known co-founder, Georgia poet and activist Donald West. Developed by the Russell Library, The Many Lives of Don West draws upon images, objects, and documents from the West Family Collection from the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library as well as several related collections from the Russell Library.
Lives explores the motivations of one southerner driven to uplift his own people – the poor, rural farmers of Appalachia – and follows an activist on his journey from socialism to communism and back again. Also on display from September 14-November 30, the West exhibit introduces visitors to the struggles and rewards involved in the fight for social justice.
As a complement to both exhibits, sponsors have planned a series of six films, lectures, and performances that are all free and open to the public. For more information about these programs, visit the events page.
The Georgia Humanities Council, The University of Georgia Alumni Association, the Willson Center for the Humanities and Arts, the University of Georgia History Department, the University of Georgia Program for Adult Education, the University of Georgia Libraries, and the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies have provided major funding for this project,. The Russell Library Gallery will host the exhibit from September 14, 2008 through January 30, 2009. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. For more information about the exhibit and programs, please visit www.libs.uga.edu/russell or call 706-542-5766.