D.C.

Newseum opens Civil Rights Movement exhibit

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington later this month, the Newseum has opened a new exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement and the role media played. The exhibit is largely focused on student leaders who organized sit-ins and marches. Curators hope the exhibit will inspire a new generation of Americans.

The Newseum is known for its front page headlines from across the country, but now, visitors can experience headlines from another time when the nation was segregated by race on the verge of the Civil Rights Movement.

“It’s just amazing to think that our parents lived through this time,” says Micelle Brand of Charlotte, NC.

The new exhibit features several artifacts, including a section of the “whites only” Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro, NC, where four African American teenagers sparked headlines in 1960 when they requested a cup of coffee.

“All the people yelling at them,” says Jamaka Thomas. “It’s just mind blowing that they could do that.”

Visitors can also view the bronze casting of a jail cell door where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

“It’s very disturbing,” says Paul Blake, a volunteer. “It does bring a lot of different emotions, anger, but it’s also inspirational to see the accomplishments that were achieved despite the obstacles.”

The exhibit explores how the First Amendment helped propel the Civil Rights Movement forward, how courageous student leaders used the Freedom and Speech and the Freedom of Assembly to fight segregation laws, and how the news media used the Freedom of the Press to raise awareness of the movement.

“Think about 1963,” says Patty Rhule, the Newseum’s senior manager of exhibit development. “We didn’t have Twitter, we didn’t have 24/7 news coverage. Fall of 1963, the nightly news expands to 30 minutes and the images of students in Alabama being beset upon by dogs and fire hoses really shocked Americans that this is happening in our country.”

Fifty years later, parents say their children simply don’t understand why whites and blacks would be segregated. Historians say that’s why it’s critical for this conversation to continue.

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