'Changing America' Exhibit Looks at Freedom Movements

Jul 11, 2019

The "Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963," runs through Oct. 13, 2019 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Credit Courtesy photo

Two major people's movements in American history, with 100 years between them, are examined in a new exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The "Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963" traveling Smithsonian exhibition touches on such topics as slavery and the civil rights movement. It'll be on display until Oct. 13.


Dale Robertson, president and chief executive officer, shared details about the show with WMUK's Earlene McMichael on today's WestSouthwest news and public affairs program.

He said he first learned of the exhibit from a newspaper article and was intrigued how an Alabama town had used it as part of a racial reconciliation process. 

Robertson said the exhibition, which opened in May, is made up of three double-sided panels of information with photos and text. It is accompanied by artifacts on loan from the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, including abolitionist newspapers from the 1800s. Visitors can also hear taped oral histories of community leaders reflecting on how the civil rights movement played out locally.

When the Grand Rapids Public Museum contacted the Smithsonian to inquire about getting the exhibit here, Robertson said it learned that it was being retired as a traveling work, a routine practice. Officials said his museum could have it permanently if it paid shipping costs, which it did, so now it owns the exhibit, Robertson said.

After the "Changing America" run concludes in October, the plan is to loan it out to community groups, churches and schools at no cost, Robertson said.

Admission to the exhibit is free with the museum's general entrance fee.

Hear the longer interview here.

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