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After undertaking a placement at the museum earlier this year, Nottingham Trent University student Krysalyn Quainoo returned to the National Justice Museum to see the new exhibition spaces. Here, she blogs about the Journey to Justice temporary exhibition:
The Journey to Justice is just one of the exhibitions the National Justice Museum is holding. Journey to Justice is an organisation which promotes public awareness of the history of people that stand against inequality and for human rights. It tells the stories of women and men; US Civil rights are mainly focused on, as well as UK rights. US Civil rights had a major effect on British civilians that they decided to enforce these rights within the United Kingdom to make us all have equal rights today.
The exhibition includes an action for change lunch counter where visitors can reflect on the historic figures throughout the exhibition. It highlights the key things that we have in our lives and how realising these things more often could help us in the long run, or just make a change. Visitors are asked to write down on certain colours of card: who inspires them, if they have ever been stereotyped wrongly, news items provoking them to take action, or if they have ever voted. These 4 categories really do have an impact on our lives as they highlight what is going on within society today, and who we can look to or turn to.
One of the stories that caught my eye was the story of Ruby Bridges. Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the United States. In the 1960s there were still minorities that were segregated, as the civil rights movement was just coming into play. She was the only one of six African Americans to attend William Frantz School. Due to Ruby being African American she had no other choice but to be escorted by federal marshals, due to mobs outside the school. Ruby was the only child in her class as parents chose to withdraw their children from the class, or simply just found their children a new school. With the help of Barbara Henry, Ruby was able to get the education she deserved: the two would sit side by side every day. Ruby faced racial abuse during her experience at the Frantz School that led her to experience nightmares, and not eat her lunch. It was a very tough experience for a six-year-old at the time. By the end of the first year the racism stopped and some kids returned to the school.
In 1999, Bridges started her own foundation called the ‘Ruby Bridges Foundation’. This foundation aims to educate and inspire people to help end racism. Her foundation looks at how to respect those with differences and genuinely make a change within society today.
The Journey to Justice Exhibition also looks into the local community and the struggles that they had including the first black footballer to play for England – Viv Anderson; a gay man sent to prison – John Anderson; and more.
Come and explore these stories at the National Justice Museum today! Journey to Justice is a temporary exhibition and is free to experience. Find out more
Below, Krysalyn gives an overview to the history of civil rights with an introduction to some important figures:
The civil rights movement
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights movement aimed to help segregated communities get social freedom, equality and justice, particularly in the USA. Ethnic minorities were often segregated which made it harder for them to get an education and a job. They were treated very harshly by the law until the civil rights movement changed that, a change reflected in modern society.
Civil Right Activists
Some of the significant activists in the movement are well known:
Malcolm X was subject to racism regularly and was harassed daily. He had a troubled youth and he was sentenced to jail time. During his time in jail Malcolm read books to make up for the education that he had missed due to reckless ways. Islamic beliefs and the ideology of Black Nationalism were important influences. He wanted to prove that change could help freedom, justice and equality. He had a lot of faith in change being possible. Malcolm believed that black identity, integrity and independence was important, and displayed this on a global scale.
Rosa Parks is well known for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks believed that segregation was wrong so chose to boycott the city’s ordinance. When on a bus in 1955, she was told to give up her seat for a white man, she refused. This was because there were not enough seats and it was standard practice until this date to ask black people to give their seats to white people. Her refusal ultimately led her to be arrested. Many similar boycotts recurred after Parks’ arrest.
Martin Luther King Jr. became the leader of the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the wake of Rosa Parks’ arrest and subsequent protests. He felt that he could make a difference and all lives can be integrated together, so he worked for desegregation. In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr held a march for freedom and jobs, which is known as the March on Washington. His famous speech in which he said the words ‘I have a dream’ is still recognised today. This line from his speech was recognised for wanting change and unity:
‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’
King went onto being the youngest person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 as his speech inspired the nation. He was ultimately assassinated but is still seen as a hero today.
Paul Stephenson was a UK Civil rights campaigner, he crafted a similar message to the nation to US campaigners by boycotting a Bristol bus company. In 1963 Stephenson decided to hold a 60-day boycott on the Bristol bus company as the company would not allow ethnic minorities to be drivers and conductors. The campaign was very successful and on the very same day as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, the Bristol Omnibus company announced that it would employ ethnic minorities.
Many of these activists were arrested and endured time in prison to get the justice that they deserved.
What happened next?
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was introduced, legislating equal opportunities, no segregation on transport, and in education. In 1965, a Selma to Montgomery March influenced the Voting Rights Act, which enabled all remaining laws enforcing segregation to be eradicated. It was made a legal offence to discriminate against someone on their religion, race, or sex. In 1965, the Race Relation Acts was introduced in the UK to mark that it is a multi-cultural society and make sure protection against racial discrimination was enshrined in law.
How you can find out more
Journey to Justice is an organisation which promotes public awareness of the history of people that stand against equality and human rights. It tells the stories of women and men, with a focus on US Civil rights as well as UK rights. To discover more about the Civil Rights movement, the Journey to Justice exhibition is currently hosted at the National Justice Museum. Entry is free.