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The Long Struggle for Civil Rights
Following current scholarship, Oh Freedom! expands our understanding of the length and breadth of the Civil Rights movement. Instead of the traditional story of civil rights, which focuses primarily on the events of the 1950s and 1960s, Oh Freedom! presents the movement as a longer, more varied, and ongoing African American struggle for freedom, justice, and equality throughout the course of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Oh Freedom! helps clarify this longer history by breaking it down into three distinct eras:
- Early Civil Rights—Forgotten Movements (1900–1945) explores the intersections between art, artists, and early civil rights organizations and events in a period that has been called the seedbed of the modern Civil Rights movement. Forgotten Movements makes visible the deep connections between the movements of the 1950s and 1960s and precursor movements, figures, and events, such as the birth of the NAACP, the Harlem Renaissance, antilynching campaigns, and the World War II-era mobilization for equal rights.
- The Modern Civil Rights Movement (1945–1968) explores the ways that artists responded to the breadth and depth of civil rights activities. This section examines artworks that depict and reflect the mass protest–oriented Civil Rights movement that emerged in the United States after World War II. Seminal moments include the Birmingham Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, the Freedom Rides, and the Voting Rights Act.
- Beyond 1968—"Post–Civil Rights?" (1968–2008) explores intersections between artistic expression and the continuing quest for political participation and power, personal success, and social justice in American life. This section examines questions about the expansion, legacy, and continuing need for and coherence of civil rights struggles in the period following the legislative successes of the 1960s.