LAMs Lunch Explores Civil Rights Movement

Students peered over documents, flyers and propaganda buttons that detailed the career of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin as part of the Library, Archives and Museums initiative (LAMs) this past Tuesday.

The program, which was held in the Mural Room of Paresky Commons during lunch, allowed students to immerse themselves in the music of change, discover an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement and address the prevalence of Native American mascots in American sports. The exhibits on display featured a range of works, some of which dated back to the 1950s.

The LAMs workshop is a collaborative effort between the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), the Robert S. Peabody Museum, the W.B. Clift Music Library and the Addison Gallery of American Art that strives to educate students and faculty on past and present issues in our society.

Stephanie Aude, Instructional Librarian, said Rustin was known for using songs and slogans to achieve social change, and he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rustin also studied nonviolent resistance in India and tutored Martin Luther King, Jr. on principles of nonviolent resistance.

Aude said, “When people think of nonviolent resistance, they think of turning the other cheek, not fighting back and being passive in the face of attack. This is the foundation of nonviolent resistance; the courage to stick with your beliefs when confronted by adversity and violence.”

The W.B. Clift Music Library’s table was populated by myriad examples of protest music, predominantly civil rights music accompanied by prison, mining and revolutionary music.
Carl Johnson, Head Music Librarian at the W.B. Clift Music Library, said, “Music really just taps into something emotional. It can make people angry and inspire them at the same time. There is music about civil rights leaders being angry with racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan but also talking about their freedom and looking forward to a better future.

The Addison’s exhibit explored the way in which captions can drastically alter and sway an audience’s opinion of a photo. The Addison displayed pictures from the Civil Rights Movement and pictures taken of Innu, Aboriginal natives of Quebec and Labrador.

One picture depicted James Meredith, a civil rights activist, attempting to drag himself off a highway after suffering a gunshot wound. The caption read “Grimacing in Pain.”

At the exhibit, students were asked to write captions for a picture of the Selma to Montgomery March and ‘The Soiling of Old Glory,’ a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a white teenager threatening a black man with an American flag on a flagpole.

The Peabody Museum’s display explored the use of Native Americans as mascots for sports teams. Pictures depicted the many teams that used and still use Native Americans as their mascots and the racially offensive jokes made by those teams’ rivals.

Lindsay Randall, educator at the Peabody Museum, said, “Teams such as the Atlanta Braves are not said to be offensive. An argument in favor of the term ‘redskin’ is a Navajo school where the mascot is the redskins. This is why Washington Redskin supporters say that it is not meant to be offensive.”

She said, “‘Redskin’ means ‘proof of kill’ and this is one of the frequently used arguments against the [use of the] term. It is offensive to Native Americans.”
The next LAMs lunch is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, and will focus on the preservation of archival materials.