“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice,” words spoken by Theodore Parker, the abolitionist minister in 1853. Martin Luther King Jr. modified the quote during the Civil Rights Movement when he proclaimed, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (The Gospel Messenger 1958) The quote in either form can be interpreted to mean that a passive wait for justice will be rewarded. It can also imply that justice is conferred by those of superior moral, political, or social status on those less fortunate. The Bending Toward Justice digital exhibit project builds on a different interpretation. The exhibits planned and presented in this digital space explore daily life in Florida’s Black communities and document the ways in which African Americans “bent” the arc toward justice through their everyday lives and under extraordinary conditions.
BTJ Exhibit #1
The Voting Rights & Voter Suppression exhibit explores the Ocoee Massacre on November 2, 1920, as a local case study of the national effort to suppress the Black vote. Phase 1 of the exhibit focuses on the town of Ocoee and events of 1920 that inflamed the mob action, the efforts of Black Ocoee citizens to rebuild their lives, and the local and national investigations that followed the massacre. Phase 2 examines the legislation that expanded and contracted voting rights, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, extralegal efforts to suppress the vote, and the actions of Black Americans to exercise their citizenship. Phase 3 brings the legacy of Ocoee into the present as it explores the ways in which the 100th anniversary of the Ocoee Massacre provided an opportunity for reflection, an examination of the history of race and voting, and a landscape for social justice.
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EXHIBIT COMING SOON
Black entrepreneurs defied Jim Crow. They demonstrated their abilities to find methods to build businesses to provide goods and services to Black customers, create generational wealth for their families, and, with ministers, doctors, dentists, and attorneys, provide leadership that both challenged segregation and disfranchisement and protected vulnerable members of the community. Their businesses ranged from the readily acknowledged examples of funeral homes, barber and beauty shops, and insurance companies, to real estate, construction, service stations, and printing companies. They operated theaters and restaurants, sold groceries and dry goods, and produced tailored suits. They joined local branches of the NAACP, the Urban League, and the National Negro Business League. Some organized local Negro Chambers of Commerce. They defied the limitations Jim Crow imposed and laid groundwork for the mid-twentieth-century civil rights movement and beyond.
The Black Entrepreneurs digital exhibit provides an interactive history of business development in multiple communities in Central Florida, beginning with Orlando’s Black neighborhood of Parramore, with future expansion to the Hannibal Square neighborhood of Winter Park and the Georgetown neighborhood of Sanford.