For all the world to see: Traveling exhibit makes first stop in Bonner Springs
In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy, was murdered in Mississippi simply because he was black.
To exemplify the brutality of segregation and racism, his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, distributed photos of his body, showing the way his murderers had mutilated him. In part, she said, “We had averted our eyes for far too long, turning away from the ugly reality facing us as a nation. Let the world see what I’ve seen.”
Now those images, in an exhibit inspired by those words, will be displayed at Wyandotte County Historical Museum, 631 N. 126th St. “For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights,” a nationally touring exhibition, is making its first stop at the museum, April 9 to May 25.
Jennifer Laughlin, museum curator, said she stumbled across information about the exhibit online when it was still under development. She contacted the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Mo., which produced the traveling exhibit, to see if it could be brought to the museum.
“They were excited to have it held locally first … and we could kind of be the guinea pigs for it,” Laughlin said.
As the first host for the exhibit, in May the museum will host an orientation session for representatives from venues that will house the exhibit.
The original exhibition was organized by the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The exhibit explores how images of blacks were used in the media and popular culture and how they affected the civil rights movement, from the 1930s through the 1970s.
And of course, Wyandotte County had its own significant moments in the fight for civil rights.
“Wyandotte County definitely has a wealth of interesting African American history, which is another reason we wanted to bring this exhibit here — we thought it would be a good tie in to our local history,” Laughlin said.
So the museum has created 12 panels on local civil rights history in its east gallery, including information about the Quindaro community and Western University, which was seen as the Tuskegee Institute of the West. In addition, the panels focus on segregation of Sumner High School and the history of segregated swimming pools and parks in the county.
The museum also will offer a related program with local documentarian Jefferson Donald. His documentary, “Struggler’s Hill,” which covers the history of blacks in Wyandotte County, will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, in the George Meyn Community Center at 126th Street and State Avenue.
All of this comes together to leave a lasting impression on visitors once the exhibit opens its doors Monday, Laughlin said. Four video components capture the visitor’s attention and drive the message home, she said, and the Till images remain “quite visually stirring.”
“Hopefully that impact can be felt now again with this exhibition,” Laughlin said.
The museum is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. An online tour of the exhibit can be found at umbc.edu/cadvc/foralltheworld/.