Dorothy Cotton said, “It should not be forgotten that change is possible, as painful as it is to remember it. But change is possible.”
For more than 3 years curators at Emory University’s Woodruff Library have worked to catalog about 1,000 boxes of historic documents that, according to NPR, “Tell the story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an early civil rights group first presided over by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.” The SCLC focused on the Civil Rights movement, training thousands of “mostly Southern blacks on how to organize their communities, increase voter registration ans stand up for their constitutional rights.” But that is not all they did. According to one of the exhibit’s curators, Michael Hall, the SCLC tackled “issues of poverty, psychological health, drug abuse; I mean you name it, they were really trying to protect the whole person.”
Dorothy Cotton, who was the head of the SCLC’s Citizen Education Program in the 1960s says, “many don’t understand” what was going on behind the scenes. The demonstrations were there for the public to see and served an important purpose, but more important were the education programs the SCLC had going on. Cotton said, “Of course, they couldn’t really know about it because it was not something we could publicize. We would have been shut down [for] teaching all those old black folk that they are citizens and that they have a right to vote and that they can deal with this … American-style apartheid … “It should not be forgotten that change is possible, as painful as it is to remember it. But change is possible.”
Hall agrees saying, “We really hope that the exhibition can be transformative … We’re really hoping that it helps to guide people currently,” to think about how the issues of poverty, mental health, drug abuse, and violence in our communities can be addressed. Issues that the SCLC struggle do to confront, and that we as a global nation struggle with to this day.