Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: Era of Segregation 1876-1968

September 24, 2016 – Permanent
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Rosa Parks’ Dress, c. 1955. Dress that Rosa Parks was making shortly before she was arrested for not giving up her seat on a segregated bus.

This exhibition takes visitors from the end of Reconstruction through the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is rich with history and artifacts that capture the major aspects of the ongoing struggle by the nation in general and African Americans in particular to define and make real the meaning of freedom. The exhibition illustrates how African Americans not only survived the challenges set before them, but crafted an important role for themselves in the nation, and how the nation was changed as a consequence of these struggles.

Some of the most powerful artifacts in the museum are located here:

  • Emmett Till’s casket
  • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s original speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (on loan from Villanova University until Sept. 18, 2023)
  • dress made by Rosa Parks
  • prison tower from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola
  • segregated Southern Railway rail car from the Jim Crow era
  • Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s lunch-counter stools
  • house (c. 1874) built, owned, and lived in by freed slaves in Maryland