A new exhibition opening today at Hill Memorial Library showcases the historic trail to racial integration and the progression of civil rights at the University and in Baton Rouge.
The goal of the exhibition is to reveal the various perspectives of integration and civil rights at the University, said Jennifer Abraham Cramer, director of LSU Libraries’ T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History.
The exhibit, “The Relentless Pursuit of ‘Equal’: Integrating LSU,” will remain open until March 29. It will offer firsthand narratives told by contemporaries of the Civil Rights Era, such as A.P. Tureaud, a New Orleans attorney who was a key figure in desegregation, Cramer said.
The exhibition will also display historical items and documents from the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections at Hill Memorial Library. These items include student applications, University documents and newspapers from the era.
The interactive listening stations will offer dialogue describing the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott, integration at the University and the struggle for the equality of civil rights in East Baton Rouge, Cramer said.
She said law documents and newspapers only reveal part of the history of civil rights. The entirety of the University’s civil rights history can be revealed through these oral histories, Cramer said
“The goal of the exhibit is to reveal the various perspectives,” she said. “It can supplement the record and add to it.”
Cramer said the goal of the exhibition is to show how far society has come in civil rights and how far is left to go.
Maxine Crump, CEO and president of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, said the greatest area of civil rights in need of improvement is how people perceive racism.
“Racism is an American construct that determines five color groups and ranks them, while reserving full rights and privileges for those who are white,” Crump said.
Crump was one of the first African-American students to attend the University, and she was also the first African-American student to live in a University residence hall.
Crump said Baton Rouge is a racially divided city, and as long as Baton Rouge is divided by Florida Boulevard, residents will continue to have racial segregation.
If most of the resources and businesses are south of Florida Boulevard, African-Americans would choose not to live north of it, Crump said.
The University needs to become an environment that does not foster any kind of race discrimination, Crump said.
“LSU needs to become the university of Louisiana,” Crump said. “We are all Louisiana citizens; we are all Americans, and we need to live like it.”