Civil Rights Movement Exhibition and Panel Discussion

By Breanna Williams, Staff Writer—

On Thursday, Feb. 21, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga held its Civil Rights Movement exhibition opening and panel discussion in the Southern Writers Reading Room from 3:05 p.m. to 4:20 p.m.

The event showcased the work of professor Susan Eckelmann’s “Modern Civil Rights Struggle” class. Students participated in a panel discussion to discuss the challenges and rewards they faced in doing this project, the process involved, and the panel themes.

According to Eckelmann, assistant professor and director of Africana studies, “students conducted vigorous research in the UTC Special Collections.”

According to one student in the class, one of the main difficulties the students faced in creating the panels was narrowing down all of their research to determine what information to display.

The process for creating these panels was a long one.

“In a course of a semesters and  three different focused workshops, students structured, drafted, and edited the final narratives for each historical exhibit panel,” Eckelmann said.

The students were split into five groups, and each was given a theme. The themes for these panels included desegregation at UTC, school integration in Chattanooga, white resistance, youth activism, and black power.

One of the panels titled “Black Power in Chattanooga” portrayed that while the term “black power” is often negatively associated with violence and hate, the phrase represents how African-Americans sought equality in all areas of civil liberties, such as housing, jobs, and education.

Another of the panels titled “White Opposition to a Changing Chattanooga” illustrated how the white population opposed civil rights for African Americans.

The students’ extensive research could not all be featured on the panels, so they created blogposts on the UTC Library website to further explain their findings.

According to Carolyn Runyan, director of special collections, “This project has been a collaboration between special collections and the department of history.”

These panels serve a greater purpose than just an assignment, Eckelmann said.

“Their research and the amount of time they’ve put in cannot be graded or assessed,” she said.

The exhibition will still be on display for anyone who did not get to see it on Thursday.

“We have moved them in from the George Connor Reading Room Special Collections, and then we’re rotating one every week or so in the display right outside Special Collections,” Runyan noted.

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