Civil Rights Artifacts
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90.3 WBHM | Montgomery -- The National Parks Service is asking residents of Alabama for help in creating a new museum. They've sent curators on a treasure hunt through the state's shoeboxes, attics, and closets for artifacts from the Selma-to-Montgomery Voters Rights March of 1965. And on a recent Saturday morning, they invited WBHM to tag along. They are looking for buttons, posters, robes, and pamphlets, even sleeping bags and shoes, both from those who marched, and those who opposed them. These yellowing artifacts, when they finally find a home in the Park Service's display cases, will teach history to coming generations of Americans. But displayed in the homes of Montgomery residents, they tell much more personal stories?.

Valarie: My name is Valarie Kinkade, I'm a freelance curator.

Teresa: My name is Teresa Valencia, and I'm the museum curator with the National Parks Service... right now we're trying to find people to assist us with donating artifacts, or allowing us an opportunity to purchase artifacts, to design some of the exhibits.

Souvenirs from a Life of Activism:

The Activist: "These are buttons, I just put them up as I go..." Valerie: "You have buttons from all different periods up there..." "I'm trying to find where is my little bitty SNICK button. There's a CORE button, which is of the period. There's my NAACP button of 1947..." "Can we take the Core button down and take a look at it, do you think?"

"My role? I've always been an activist, all of my life. My parents were activists, my grandparents were activists. So it was natural, part of my upbringing expectations. And so we did grassroots organizing, had Freedom Schools and citizenship schools in the counties, and marched. And we provided the food, because people had to eat. You know, a lot of folks don't realize, you're marching for 5 days and you got to eat, you got to go to the bathroom, and all of that..."

A Father's Legacy:

The Son: "It doesn't have the... In fact, I don't know if that particular outfit had a face cover because it doesn't have the snaps for it, but if you notice, that emblem, that emblem is just pinned on there. In fact, this picture here doesn?t show a symbol on those particular hoods..." Valarie: "Yeah, the ones that are turned this way don't have it."

"Those pictures, that's the only pictures of, I mean, that's the only time I've seen Daddy in dress as far as Klan. I knew when I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. I'd wake up on Saturday morning and if Daddy was supposed to be there and not: 'Momma, where's Daddy?' 'Oh, he had something he had to go to out of town.'"

"My sister and I talked about it and, based on what Daddy would want done with it, is burn it. And I told my sister: 'Burn it or sell it.' Daddy wasn't rich, he didn't leave much for his three kids but history."

The Things Old Houses Hide, and the New People Who Find Them:

Valarie: "I would say that this is nothing earlier than the 50s, looking at this piece here; it's basically just sheeting."

The Mother: "It freaked me out to be up in the attic, ain't no telling how long..." Valarie: "How did you find it?" ... "Just looking" ... "Just looking around, poking around?" ... "Uh huh" ... The Daughter: "It was in the corner" ... "It was hid" ... "Was it in a box or a bag or anything? Or just wadded up?" ... "It was wrapped" ...

The Daughter: "That book there was saying something about, 'we got something real fun'? They have different stunts you can do for, like, Christmas to make fun of Blacks. Let me see, what else? you can buy a Santa Claus beard for a black is 2 dollars and 50 cents. That's what makes you mad, when you're reading how much they are paying for this stuff to make fun of you..."

The Mother: "I was in the first march. I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. I went with my Momma. She said, 'Are you gonna march with me'? I said, 'Yeah, I'll march with you!' Went from Saint Jude all the way downtown, sure did. And singing, and different people would join in as we got to each block, and sing, 'Ain't gonna let nobody turn me 'round.' It was black, white, all kinds of people marching. And that's when I saw the togetherness right there. I was a little girl, and that instilled in me: right. Do right to people, you know, be fair with people. And that is still in me, right today."


If you have artifacts you would think would be of interest to the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail interpretive centers, please contact:

Catherine Farmer, Site Manager (334) 727-6390

For information on the National Park Service's Project:

  • The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
  • For an educational resource on the Voting Rights March:

  • The LBJ Library for Kids