Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act ended legal discrimination against people of color and against women, bringing American society closer to realizing the promise of its Constitution.
This year, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum goes downtown to The Artists Hand Gallery, 732 Philadelphia St., Indiana, with an exhibit titled “Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Celebration.”
The exhibit, comprising works from the museum’s permanent collection, will open Tuesday and run through May 3. A free public reception at the gallery will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Movements to abolish slavery and establish rights for all citizens of the United States recurred throughout our nation’s early history, with limited results.
Although the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1868, extended “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens, prejudice and social customs denied people of color and women full legal rights well into the second half of the 20th century.
During the 1950s and ’60s, various local efforts to achieve equal rights converged in a civil rights movement of national influence that changed hearts and minds.
In 1964, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation making it illegal to discriminate against citizens based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened new opportunities to women and people of color.
With the exhibition at The Artists Hand Gallery, the University Museum celebrates this progress with a selection of American art from its permanent collection.
The works on display include eight pieces created by African-American women and a suite of nine prints by artist Ben Shahn that commemorates the history of the civil rights movement.
The Artists Hand Gallery is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This exhibition is supported, in part, by the Student Cooperative Association at IUP and by private donations.
The museum also receives grant support from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts through the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance.