We Shall Not Be Moved: The 50th Anniversary of Tennessee’s Civil Rights Sit-Ins

August 29, 2012 - October 12, 2012
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The landmark events that helped shape the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s are the focus of an exhibition opening at the Columbia State Community College Pryor Art Gallery on Sept. 29. The exhibit, We Shall Not Be Moved: The 50th Anniversary of Tennessee’s Civil Rights Sit-Ins, continues through Oct. 12 and is free to the public. During the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans began mobilizing in a massive movement against segregation. This included non-violent, direct action campaigns that culminated in sit-in demonstrations, economic boycotts and marches. Fifty years ago a handful of Nashville college students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (later Tennessee State) and American Baptist Theological Seminary began a sit-in campaign targeting downtown lunch counters. These actions sparked the formation of a mass sit-in movement, which became the model used across Tennessee and the rest of the South. The Pryor Art Gallery exhibit, organized by the curatorial staff at the Tennessee State Museum for travel across Tennessee, looks at segregation in the state and how significant resistance developed in African American communities. On display will be artifacts, publications, photographs, interpretive panels and memorabilia to illustrate the exhibit’s theme. An eight-minute film about the Nashville sit-ins contains original news footage taken in Nashville during 1960. "The film was produced especially for school children to help them better understand what was going on at that time," explained Pryor Gallery Curator Rusty Summerville. Although the sit-ins were organized as a non-violent action, occasionally students were met with violence from white bystanders, however it was usually the protesting students who were arrested and taken to jail. “The exhibit examines why these students were willing to face possible violence and endure incarceration and how their parents reacted,” Summerville said, adding that similar events in Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville and other locales are also covered. A companion exhibit designed by Summerville runs simultaneously. Featured African-American artists include James Threalkill, Michael J. McBride, Michael “Ol Skool” Mucker, John “Jahni” Moore and James Spearman Jr. Summerville encourages schools, organizations and churches to schedule special tours of the exhibit. The Pryor Art Gallery, located in the Waymon L. Hickman building on the Columbia State Community College campus, is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and on Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The gallery is also open on weekends during special events. Exhibits are free and open to the public. For more information contact PryorGallery@ColumbiaState.edu or call Summerville 931-540-2883.