"Freedom did not occur instantaneously with the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, or with the war’s end and the subsequent ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Rather, freedom unfolded over time and space and was informed as much by memories of the past as well as by expectations and visions for the future." - Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer, "Envisioning Emancipation"
Planning for the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington” is underway. In addition to the commemorations, conferences and events, visitors to the nation’s capital will seek out poignant places like the White House, the MLK Memorial, and Frederick Douglass’s home on Cedar Hill.
Another must see is, “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963,” an exhibit at the National Museum of American History. On display at the Museum’s second floor until September 15, 2013, the presentation will “explore their historical content and impact on the generations that followed.”
I took in the exhibit yesterday (Once you see the Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In, turn right and it will come into view). The twin presentations are top-notch.
For the March, the first part of the exhibit shows the forerunner demonstrations. The middle room features repeating video and audio from the March. Expect a logjam there, as the power of TV comes through. The next and final room also has a video and analysis which speaks to the cadence and flow King used in his speech.
Artifacts include the acoustic guitar Joan Baez used. Handwritten “memory cards” reflect the fears some had about possible trouble or violence (which never came). Documents reflect the enormous logistical task of getting everyone to Washington.
The Emancipation side is more for readers and takes more time to understand and appreciate. A final video screen makes observations on where we stand today.
The NMAH will also hosts events. Three that are their calendar now are:
Wil Haygood will interview Dr. Clarence B. Jones and discuss his latest book, “Behind the Dream, The Making of a Speech that Transformed a Nation.”
(I started reading this book. It is a real page-turner, and gives Dr. Jones’s inner circle account as an advisor, speech-writer, and confidant of Dr. King. One feels the tension and worry the planners felt, and chilled by the eavesdropping).
Dr. Rex Ellis will interview Taylor Branch. His book (due out January 1), “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement” is an abridged work of his Pulitzer Prize-winning “America in the King Years” trilogy.
Lonnie Bunch sits down with Deborah Willis, co-author of
“Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery.”
Note: The site for the National Museum of African American History and Culture is next door to the NMAH, and is within the shadow of the Washington Monument. The construction is currently on the underground dig. I would guess that by next summer, the building will start taking shape.