The USC Libraries’ Special Collections Display in Doheny Memorial Library is featuring a small exhibit, Civil Rights: A View of the Struggle, throughout February in honor of Black History Month.
Melinda Hayes, the head of the special collections department, said the exhibit serves to commemorate the black civil rights movement and to give students an understanding of their rights.
“Bringing attention to the things that happened [in] the past can relate to the things happening in the present,” Hayes said. “We wanted to honor Black History Month by taking out some of the materials we have in our collections. This shows how far we’ve come from where we were 40 years ago, where we are now and how far we still have to go.”
The collection contains a series of newspaper clippings, including some from the Daily Trojan; books by acclaimed writers, such as James Baldwin and the Watts Writers Workshop that date back to 1965; and a thorough documentation of the political life of Yvonne Burke, one of the few black women to be elected to Congress in the 1970s.
“It’s easier to get a sense of the importance of the materials when you can gauge them in a physical way rather than through the library catalogue,” said Hugh McHarg, executive director of communications and public planning for USC Libraries.
“It’s much more dramatic, in a way, the impact of the kind of stories that exist in any kind of library collection once you see [the display] for yourself.”
Cynthia Brass, president of the Black Staff and Faculty Caucus, said exhibits like Civil Rights remind students to reflect on the past.
“Even though it’s labeled as the month of February, black history is every day of the year. The month itself gives everyone the change to get a better view and understanding and improve their knowledge about this history,” Brass said. “Getting people to gather as a whole to identify where they’ve gone, where they are and where they need to go — this month enhances all those things. Depending on who it is and their mentality of a recognition of a few great people, this is a month to look at everyone, even if you haven’t read about them in the history book.”