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The MMFA Becomes a Classroom for Students Learning About the Civil Rights Era

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History came to life recently for some area middle and high-school students. On Saturday, March 14, Jaida Boardley and nearly 80 others came to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts to take part in Remembering the March, an arts event and teen essay contest.

As she walked in the Museum she turned in an essay (which was required for admission to the event) and entered the Wilson auditorium. Minutes later, the Baldwin Middle Magnet student, and others came face to face with Sheyann Webb-Christburg. Christburg participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 when she was only eight years old.

The now author and Civil Rights activist introduced the Disney movie, Selma, Lord, Selma, based on the book she co-authored and that bears the same name. Christburg told the crowd, “This movie has struck a chord with children across the country. You need to know young people were also involved in the March. ”

12 year-old Jaida admitted she had seen the movie before, but hearing it was based on the life of the woman now standing in her presence gave it a new meaning. Jaida said, “I was excited to see her.”DSC_0217-blog

After screening the movie, singer Eric Nettles performed the song So Amazing, and further set the stage for Christburg’s presentation. Christburg said to the youngsters, “You need to know you matter in the world. Be the best you can be and get a good education. I tell you this because that’s how Dr. King spoke to me. Develop a strong character. Let it be deeply embedded in you. ”

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Following a question-and-answer session, the young people walked into the MMFA’s galleries to view the exhibition History Refused to Die: Alabama’s African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context. There they received another kind of history lesson. Lonnie Holley, one of 15 artists featured in the exhibition, spoke with them about the sources of his painting, Carrying the Lighter Child, encouraging them to follow their dreams as he had his.

IMG_1677_blogRemembering the March is just one of the FREE programs being held at the Museum commemorating key events of the Civil Rights era. Thursday, April 3 at 6 P.M., the pubic is invited to attend a presentation by Montgomery businessman Loyd Howard. He will focus on his experiences during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in anticipation of the 60th anniversary later this year. Also, on Thursday, April 23 at 6 P.M., writer and editor Randall Williams, will explore the larger social and political context of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations