'Documented Rights' exhibit to begin national tour

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Joel Hall


Thanks to the actions of one Chinese American, Wong Kim Ark, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1898 that all people born in America, regardless of lineage, were American citizens.

Years before civil rights icon Rosa Parks refused to be moved from her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, baseball legend Jackie Robinson was court-martialed, while in the U.S. Army, after refusing to give us his seat on a bus to a white man. He later went on to break Major League Baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The stories and related documents of these individuals, as well as many others who struggled to obtain equal rights, will be on display at the National Archives at Atlanta in Morrow for only three more weeks, prior to traveling to 13 other regional archive facilities across the country.

"Documented Rights," an exhibition on the struggle for equal rights in America, will remain on display at the National Archives at Atlanta until Tuesday, Feb. 23. On Saturday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., the National Archives will ceremonially close the exhibit during its "Finding Your Ancestors' Voices" Family History Symposium, a workshop in celebration of Black History Month. During the event, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- a leader in family genealogy research -- will provide visitors with tools for researching their family's history.

According to National Archives at Atlanta Public Programs Specialist Mary Evelyn Tomlin, Martin Luther King, III, the son of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., will accept a community service award from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the Feb. 20 program.

Since June of last year, "Documented Rights" has been on display at the National Archives at Atlanta, according to Tomlin. The exhibit, which was constructed in Morrow, will eventually make stops at other National Archives locations in 13 other cities, she said. "The whole exhibit relates to the struggle for civil rights among many different groups of people ... people who were traditionally discriminated against," Tomlin said. "The next place it is going is Kansas City, and it will be there from September [2010] to February [2011]."

"It has been well received," she continued. "We've had an uptick in the number of people coming to see it, and we've had a number of people more interested in coming to the archives. They [the documents in the exhibit] are original documents that tell what has happened in American history."

The exhibit -- which is now also online at www.archives.gov under 'Online Exhibits' -- features photographs, legal filings, and personal accounts of people whose struggles for freedom changed the course of American history. Documents range from: The landmark "Amistad Case," in which a group of African slaves took control of their captors' ship and eventually were granted their freedom; to the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s; to the landmark "Brown v. Board of Education" decision.

Those who attend the Feb. 20 symposium are encouraged to, first, register online at www.blackfamilyhistoryday.com, or by calling (404) 252-4864, as seating is limited. For more details, call (770) 968-2100.