Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution: The American Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1970: An Exhibition

Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution: The American Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1970: An Exhibition

The exhibition is in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, First Floor Lobby, from January 18 through February 29, 2016.   It is a component of the University of Virginia’s 2016 Community MLK [Martin Luther King, Jr.] Celebration “The Call to Higher Ground.”  

The Small Special Collections Library is open Monday-Thursday, 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m., Fridays, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Saturdays, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., closed on Sundays.

The American Civil Rights Movement (1954-1970) intensely transformed American society and inspired similar movements worldwide. Its nonviolent protests and civil resistance for equal citizenship under the law enhanced African-Americans’ self-dignity and collective commitment in the face of white supremacist terrorism. Others too, were allies, martyrs and beneficiaries of this undertaking to fulfill the promises America had made on paper since 1776.

One of this exhibition’s three display cases features the life and career of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., charismatic leader of the Civil Rights Movement and “a drum major for justice and peace” in his letters and publications. The exhibit’s 24 items on display comprise letters, newsletters, photographs, poetry and reports; special items of interest include:

·         A 1960 NAACP voting rights comic book
·         Alex Haley’s 1963 interview of Malcolm X
·         A 1969 Black Panther Party coloring book
·         A 1976 Julian Bond for President bumper sticker
·         Auction catalog for a 2006 planned sale of Dr. King’s papers
·         An inscribed copy of Coretta Scott King’s published memoirs.

On a personal note, I wish to thank my Small Special Collections Library colleagues for their technical expertise and advice and moral support during the preparation of this exhibition: Eliza Gilligan, George Riser, Regina Rush, Molly Schwartzburg, David Whitesell, and, Jennifer Harmon of Alderman Library.

On another personal historical note: I once had the honor of a private meeting with Coretta Scott King at her Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change office in Atlanta. During our conversation she smilingly remarked, “Professor, you seem very nervous.” I replied, “Mrs. King, it’s not every day that I am in the presence of Civil Rights royalty.”


Prof. Ervin L. Jordan, Jr. (Associate Professor)
Research Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia

UVA Leadership in Academic Matters Fellow (2009)
President’s Commission on Slavery and the University (2013-2017)
Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation at Monticello
Affiliated faculty, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History,
      University of Virginia College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation 2019 Commemoration Steering Committee
State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB)
Supreme Court of Virginia Historical Commission
Senior Advisor, Norfolk State University Board of Visitors (2013-14)

    "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“On Being A Good Neighbor” in Strength to Love, 1963)