Protest: Activism and Social Change, 1845-2015 (An exhibition)



“Protest,” is, at its core, an exhibit about people coming together for a common cause. This exhibit brings together historical materials from across the collections of the Ward M. Canaday Center and unites them around the common theme of activism. The word “activism” might bring to mind protests or demonstrations, but in this exhibit, we are exploring the many ways that Americans have acted together to bring about social and political change: through public marches and protests, through art and writing, through service and scholarship.

Today’s 24/7 news cycle and social media make us more aware of ongoing protests than in the past, but Americans have a long history of joining together to advocate for civil rights: from women marching for suffrage, from black Americans marching for equal rights, to Americans with disabilities marching for the ADA. “Protest” explores this history of American activism through six themes: Women, the Civil Rights Movement, Disability, Labor, Students, and LGBTQ rights. Each subject is accompanied by an essay, meant to give the reader an overview of that particular social movement and how the Canaday Center’s collections reflect these themes. With such a depth of history to cover, our essays serve merely as introductions to their respective topics, rather than comprehensive histories, and we encourage interested visitors to explore our related collections more in depth.

Please note: in this exhibit, you will see terms that may seem insensitive, like “crippled” or “handicapped.” These terms have fallen out of modern usage but are presented here in their historical context. The language of identity is ever-evolving, and in preparing this exhibit, we strive to use inclusive, respectful terminology in our essays, although historical sources may differ.

We hope you enjoy the exhibit and find it thought-provoking and engaging.

Lauren White, Manuscripts Librarian

Exhibition Collaborators: Suzanne Henry, Tamara Jones, Lisa Meyer, Sara Mouch, and David Remaklus
Virtual Exhibition: Arjun Sabharwal
Catalog Graphic Design: Loralei R. Byatt