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50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides

Special thanks for this guest post to Allyson Nakamoto, Teacher Programs Manager at the Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California).

Panelists (L to R): Robert Singleton, Helen Singleton, Sybil Jordan Hampton (moderator), Tamio Wakayama

I often take for granted how easy it is to follow breaking news. To find out what happened during a raid on a compound in Pakistan, I can turn on a 24-hours news channel or click on a few links to get caught up.

Student with his artwork inspired by the Freedom Rides

But 50 years ago the medium of television was new.  And 50 years ago today, the first buses of Freedom Riders (and three reporters) left Washington, D.C. and headed South to test Boynton v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that had desegregated interstate travel. What followed changed the course of the United States history.

The Freedom Rides have been on our minds a lot this year.  On February 9, 2011 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History organized a Web cast and National Youth Summit that brought together Freedom Riders in D.C. and engaged five Smithsonian Affiliates from across the nation to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future.

JANM was honored to have been selected as the West Coast venue for this program and streamed the Webcast to a live audience of students from LAUSD’s Civitas School of Leadership and Ribet Academy. Following the Webcast, Dr. Robert and Mrs. Helen Singleton, two Los Angeles-based Freedom Riders, and Mr. Tamio Wakayama, a Japanese Canadian member of SNCC, were on a panel moderated by Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, a member of JANM’s Board of Trustees and herself an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. We were star struck!!!

This has gotten us thinking about how the Freedom Rides impacted Japanese Americans, and especially how it may have emboldened those in the Redress Movement. What were the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei who watched these images broadcast on national television (just as that medium was becoming commonplace) thinking and feeling as they watched the buses burning, the cruel racism, and brave individuals standing up for what was right?

What would you have been thinking if you had been watching those Freedom Riders make their way South under the “protection” of Boynton v. Virginia?

P.S. To learn more about the Freedom Rides, tune into your PBS station on May 16 and also we highly recommend The Children by David Halberstam. Learn more about new generation of young people who are about to retrace the path of the Freedom Riders. And, maybe you can catch a glimpse of the Singletons when Oprah Winfrey reunites the Freedom Riders on May 4.

Photographer: Tracy Kumono

Five Smithsonian Affiliates host live webcast for “National Youth Summit: The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides”

From May until November 1961, more than 400 diverse and committed Americans rode south together on buses and trains, putting their bodies and freedom on the line to challenge the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial injustice and inequality in public transportation. The Freedom Rides changed the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the power of individual action to change the nation. 

On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 12:00-1:15PM EST, middle and high school students across the country will join together electronically for a National Youth Summit on the Freedom Rides and activism at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Freedom Rides veterans Congressman John Lewis, D-GA, Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg, and Reverend James Lawson will share how they became involved in the Freedom Rides and how their lives were affected by them. They will join filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders) and scholar Raymond Arsenault to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future. 

Image courtesy Library of Congress.

The discussion in Washington will be joined by five audiences at Smithsonian Affiliate museums around the nation as well as by registered viewers of the webcast.  The Affiliates’ programs will be augmented by a discussion guide produced by the National Museum of American History. Each Affiliate will welcome a veteran Freedom Rider to their museums to participate in the discussion and coordinate with local schools to engage students. 

The Affiliate museums and their legendary Freedom Riders are: 

Students will be encouraged to participate in the discussion through the National Museum of American History’s email, Facebook, Twitter, and the conference portal, and will be asked to think about themselves as makers of history. 

Registration is free, and will include access to preparatory classroom materials, film clips, follow-up materials, and technical assistance. Register today! 

 

The National Youth Summit is presented by the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliations and American Experience/WGBH.

Kudos for December 2010

Great job Affiliates for ending the year on a high note!  and congratulations to all Affiliates for their accomplishments this year.   Bravo!

Big congratulations to Conner Prairie (Fishers, Indiana) and Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California) for being two of 10 museums and libraries to receive the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from The Institute of Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries that make extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions. In addition to the National Medal, each institution receives a $10,000 award.

 As part of the Illinois Public Museums Capital Grants Program, the Adler Planetarium(Chicago) will receive a $750,000  grant towards new and expanded facilities, exhibits and infrastructure improvements.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded a new $3 million grant to  the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art (Biloxi, Mississippi) to complete the structure for the gallery that displays the work of the celebrated Mississippi potter, George Ohr. The new addition will be named the John S. and James L. Knight Gallery.

The Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona) recently won two grants to help support free school admission for students to tour the museum during field trips. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, awarded the museum $75,000 to support school tours, while the Orange County, California, Community Foundation’s S.L. Gimbel Foundation Fund gave a $7,500 grant to support student programming.

PPL Montana Community Fund awarded the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, Montana) a $2,500 grant to allow eligible Head Start families a free annual museum membership, part of a team effort between the museum and Head Start to provide financially disadvantaged children the opportunity to visit a museum.

The New York State Museum (Albany, New York) has received a $1 million federal grant to conduct a new research project aimed at protecting endangered species of native freshwater mussels from the lethal fouling impacts of invasive zebra mussels. The grant from the  Environmental Protection Agency, through its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, will allow museum scientists to use their environmentally safe invention to continue their research with a new emphasis on open-water applications.

Museum of Design Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia) received a $50,000 grant from the Charles Loridans Foundation to help support its move from downtown to Midtown, where it will open across Peachtree Street from the High Museum of Art in February.

affiliates in the news: week of August 9

Congratulations to these Affiliates making headlines this week!

The Air Zoo (Portage, MI)
Imagine a multi-sensory atmosphere which is like ‘no place else on earth,’ totally unique and wonderful. That is perhaps the best way to describe the amazing Air Zoo aviation history museum in Portage, Michigan, USA. READ MORE

 

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (Albuquerque, NM)
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History has exhibits that cover everything from medicine to Cold War pop culture to the science and history of the atom. But on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings that ended World War II, it’s the weapons that draw the crowds. READ MORE (photo courtesy of the Museum of Nuclear Science & History)

Frazier Museum of International History (Lexington, KY)
David Kerr of Bowling Green, a graduate student in history at WKU, is participating in the Smithsonian Affiliations Intern Partnership Program during the summer of 2010. READ MORE

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meets with Western Kentucky University student David Kerr last week in his office at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. READ MORE

Arizona Historical Society (Tucson, AZ)
One of Arizona’s educational gems is about to become a piece of history. READ MORE

 

Snug Harbor Cultural Center (Staten Island, NY)
More than a dozen bosses have presided over the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in its 35-year history but none has had the breadth of experience the new interim chief executive officer has. READ MORE

 

Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ)
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust announced 11 Arts Restructuring and Transformation Fund (ART Fund) grants, totaling $1.2 million. READ MORE

 

Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, CA)
Bruce Kaji, the founding president of the Japanese American National Museum,. was born in Boyle Heights, was attending Roosevelt High School when World War II began. He, his family and thousands of people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed by the U.S. Government and unconstitutionally incarcerated in domestic concentration camps. READ MORE

Celebrating Our Tenth Anniversary with the Japanese American National Museum

The American Association of Museum’s annual convention, this year in Los Angeles, provided us with the perfect opportunity to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our Smithsonian affiliation with the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), also celebrating its 25th anniversary.  On May 26, Smithsonian and Affiliate staff gathered at this inspiring museum to toast these special milestones. 

JANM President and CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano and Affiliations director Harold Closter with the Smithsonian Castle plaque, commemorating 10 years of affiliation.

Here are some excerpts from the gracious talk given by Akemi Kikumura Yano, JANM President and CEO:

“This year the Japanese American National Museum is celebrating its 25th Anniversary since its incorporation in 1985.  During that period, we have managed to renovate the former Buddhist temple building across our courtyard, open this Pavilion which allows us to house our collection, and expand again with our National Center for the Preservation of Democracy.”

“All along the way, our Museum has had a relationship with the Smithsonian.  When the Smithsonian was organizing its show, A More Perfect Union in 1987, our staff were consulted and contributed to that important exhibition on the Constitutional issues involved in the government’s mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.   A More Perfect Union ended up being one of the most popular exhibitions at the National Museum of American History and it was up for more than 10 years.”

“As the Japanese American National Museum developed, so did its relationship with the Smithsonian.  One of the proudest  moments for our community was when our exhibition, From Bento to Mixed Plate:  Americans of Japanese Ancestry in Multicultural Hawai’I was installed at the Smithsonian in 1999. “

“We were also very proud to host a number of Smithsonian-created exhibitions here at our museum in Los Angeles.  In 2004, Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics, organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery was a major critical success at our museum.  In the same year we hosted the National Museum of American History’s September 11:  Bearing Witness to History.  In 2005, we borrowed an exhibition from the Sackler Gallery titled, Japan After Perry:  Views of Yokohama and Meiji Japan.”

“The collaborative partnerships that the Affiliates program has created with us have been very rewarding indeed.  It’s a partnership based on mutual interest – that is, to broaden and share perspectives on history, culture, and the arts, and from our Museum’s point of view, through the Japanese American experience.”

“This year marks our 10-year anniversary as a Smithsonian Affiliate.  The Japanese American National Museums feels fortunate to be part of the Smithsonian family.  We look forward to another 10 years as a Smithsonian Affiliate.”

Harold A. Closter
Director
Smithsonian Affiliations

kudos Affiliates!

As we closed out 2009, it’s nice to see some bright spots ringing in the New Year!  We’d like to acknowledge the following Affiliates for their hard work and success.

Smithsonian Affiliations received $8,000 from the Smithsonian Latino Center to support research trips for the curatorial staff of the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico), with the goal of organizing future exhibitions featuring Smithsonian artifacts.

The North Carolina Humanities Council has awarded $7,500 to the North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, North Carolina) for an expansion of the exhibition “Standing on a Box: Lewis Hine’s National Child Labor Committee Photography in North Carolina.” In addition, State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation has provided $500,000 to benefit the museum’s new SECU Education Center. The museum has also received a 2009 Creative Award from the North Carolina Museums Council for its Bits of History podcast series.

Museum of Arts and Sciences (Macon, Georgia) received a $10,000 grant from College Hill Corridor to hold “Art of the Hill” a spring break day camp.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (Raleigh, North Carolina), is the recipient of a $4 million grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation to support the Museum’s SECU Daily Planet centerpiece of the planned Nature Research Center.

Through state grants and local donations The Hermitage (Nashville, Tennessee) will begin a $1 million facelift to repair weather damage and wear and tear.

The Challenger Space Center (Peoria, Arizona) was awarded $50,000 from the Tohono O’odham Nation in September 2009 for a grant which will be primarily used for two new exhibits, the Gemini 8 and PlayMotion. The grant money will also help bring objects from the Smithsonian to the center for the Gemini 8 exhibit. 

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (Dubuque, Iowa) received a $500,000 earmark for exhibit fabrication and installation as part of the FY 2010 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. The museum also has received a $1.23 million grant from Iowa River Enhancement Community Attraction & Tourism program to complete an outdoor plaza for their new museum expansion project.

Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan) received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Great Lakes Folk Festival.

Joe B. Keiper has been named Executive Director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (Martinsville, Virginia).

Mid-America Science Museum (Hot Springs, Arkansas) was awarded $286,036 from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to fund a two year planning process aimed at improving the museum’s operations and exhibits.

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services recently announced the latest recipients of their Smithsonian Community Grant program, supported by MetLife Foundation including two Affiliates:

  • Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Alabama) was awarded $4,500 to develop a teacher workshop, guest speaker, and advertising and promotion of programming related to the themes of 381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story.
  • The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future (Dallas, Texas) received $4,600 to fund a visit from Queen Nur, and create a gallery guide insert and marketing materials for events related to the themes of Freedom’s Sisters.

Three Smithsonian Affiliates were recipients of MetLife Foundation’s Museum and Community Connections program grants. The grants were awarded to 15 museums for exhibitions, artist residencies, and other programs that extend their reach into diverse communities.

  • Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody, Wyoming) ($70,000)
    For the Splendid Heritage: Perspectives on Native American Art exhibit and accompanying family days, lecture series, and artist residencies.
  • Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California) ($50,000) 
    For Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids exhibit featuring portraits, hand-drawn statements, and stories of multiracial children in the United States.
  • Wing Luke Asian Museum (Seattle, Washington) ($50,000) 
    For the Asian Pacific Islander American Art Making: Explorations in Identity and Community initiative, which includes exhibits and corresponding public programs and workshops.