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BLACK AMERICANS, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND THE ROOSEVELTS, 1932-1962

A Special Exhibition at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

June 3, 2023—December 31, 2024

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Opening June 3, 2023, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum presents a new special exhibition on Black Americans, civil rights, and the Roosevelts. Developed in collaboration with a distinguished committee of scholars, the exhibit centers the historical voices of many Black community leaders, wartime service members, and ordinary citizens who engaged the Roosevelt administration directly and who pushed for progress. Within this context, the exhibit examines the political evolution of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt regarding racial justice.

From the Great Depression and New Deal, through World War II and the postwar movement, BLACK AMERICANS, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND THE ROOSEVELTS offers critical perspectives on, and unflinching assessments of, the administration’s policies and practices, and of the Roosevelts themselves. A compelling story emerges, one of Black Americans organizing and expanding national networks of political allies to create new opportunities for social justice, and to combat Jim Crow segregation, widespread discrimination, and the harsh and often violent realities of racism in America.

The exhibit features documents and artifacts – many on display for the first time – from the Roosevelt Library’s rich holdings and from private collections nationwide. These materials evidence the unrelenting efforts of many key figures of the early civil rights movement, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt’s interactions with Black leaders of the midcentury freedom struggle. They also document the racism and discrimination in American politics and culture of the era and highlight the contradictions inherent with fighting for democracy abroad while injustice persists at home. Showcasing some of the most riveting yet unheralded voices from its vast archives of personal letters, political pamphlets, petitions, artworks, photographs, and sound recordings, the Roosevelt Library hopes to inspire further research into key aspects of this important history.

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Exhibition-related Images