By Jenna Goff
The Civil War marked a major turning point for Atlanta and the United States as a whole. It was a battle that began the long struggle for freedom that culminated in the Civil Rights Movement. In its new series, “Civil War to Civil Rights,” the Atlanta History Center aims to examine these pivotal years.
“The series is designed to continue the exploration of our American history from the 1860s through the 1960s, and explore how these events shaped Atlanta and our nation,” said the center’s Senior Director of Marketing Leigh Massey.
The series investigates the different events and people that led the country, and Atlanta in particular, from a time of slavery and separation, to equal freedoms and opportunities.
“We want to show that the two historical events Atlanta is best known for – the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement – are connected to each other and part of a larger context,” said Gordon Jones, the center’s curator and senior military historian.
The exhibitions, extending well into next year, illuminate these events and prod the audience to search for the connections and deeper meanings.
One exhibit, “The Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Jr. Civil War Collection,” will display an extensive collection of rare confederate artifacts and the stories that accompany them. The bloodstained coat of a 17-year-old soldier killed in the Battle of Chickamauga will be featured.
“Here was an American soldier who gave his life for a cause – and what exactly was that cause? It really makes you think,” Jones said.
The other exhibitions have similar goals. Ranging from displays of African American artifacts to an examination of the history behind “Gone With the Wind,” they all intend to provoke thought over the course of American history since the Civil War.
The center is also providing many programs along the same theme. One of the most prominent is Juneteenth, happening June 21-22.
Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation from slavery in the United States, and consists of theater, kid-friendly activities, storytelling and workshops. It takes place on a Wells Fargo Free Admission Weekend.
Subsequent programs include summer camps, lectures, performances, historical re-enactments and more.
“There will be something engaging for guests of all ages and interests,” Massey said.
“Civil War to Civil Rights” additionally includes a number of partnership initiatives. The Atlanta History Center has partnered with organizations from Georgia Public Broadcasting to the Lovett School to present events through various platforms.
These initiatives plan to be informative and fun. “You get to not only see the history re-created,” Jones said, “but also touch and hear and smell it.”
The series will extend over the summer and into 2015. “We plan to keep the series of “Civil War to Civil Rights” ongoing to further explore these two pivotal events in our nation’s history,” Massey said.
Visit www.atlantahistorycenter.com for more details.