Lindner Hall display celebrates themes of Elon Common Reading

"Making the Movement: Objects, Objectives, and Civil Rights," which runs through the end of October, coincides with university events and conversations focused on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s groundbreaking book "Why We Can't Wait."

By Brittany Barker ‘19

An exhibit now on display in Lindner Hall honors the American Civil Rights Movement by showcasing dozens of buttons, ribbons and pamphlets created by national groups that advocated for desegregation and equality.

The “Making the Movement: Objects, Objectives, and Civil Rights” collection on loan by David Crane, who teaches history at Alamance Community College and founded the exhibit, will be featured in the building’s first floor glass cabinets through the end of October.

The exhibit coincides with events and discussions surrounding Elon’s 2015-16 Common Reading, “Why We Can’t Wait” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his book, King outlines the motivations and tactics of civil rights leaders who used nonviolence to shift public attitudes in favor of equal rights for all Americans.

“Making the Movement” is divided into five sections: Separate and Unequal (1890s-1938), Finish the Fight (1939-1950), Segregation and Desegregation (1951-1959), Victories and Resistance (1960-1965) and Visions of Freedom (1966-1970s). Each section explores the impact of material culture on the actions taken and the success of the movement during those periods.

The exhibit’s materials come from groups such as the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

“Making the Movement” demonstrates an unheralded aspect of the Civil Rights Movement, said Crane, who was inspired to build the collection by his love of history and desire to learn about the material culture of the era.

“I started collecting these pins while I was in graduate school,” Crane said. “No one is focusing on the material objects of the movement. These were tools, nonviolent weapons, objects that made the Civil Rights Movement a success.”

Crane worked with Assistant Professor Amy Johnson in the Department of History and Geography to coordinate the exhibit’s installation.

Johnson said she was very intent on making the collection one that would help people link an important historical movement to ongoing current events. “The collection resonates with conversations around the United States with social responsibility and leadership and social activism,” she said.

Crane said “Making the Movement” has something for everyone. He said that the pins, ribbons and brochures should not be viewed as souvenirs, but as instruments of change.

“People should visit the display because they don’t know about the movement’s material culture,” he said. “And people who already have knowledge about the era can achieve a deeper understanding of the entire Civil Rights Movement.”