Civil rights fights on display | August 24, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - August 24, 2012

Civil rights fights on display

Museum highlights state's struggles to keep people free

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Museum on Main's current exhibit makes it clear that the fight for freedom, although it has a long history in our state, is still ongoing.

"Wherever There's a Fight: The History of Civil Liberties in California" goes back to the battle against slavery in the mid-19th century and works its way to the current campaign for marriage equality.

The exhibit poses questions and gives historic examples of the fight for liberties:

* Who is free?

* Who can own land?

* Who is an American?

* When do we have the right to bear arms?

* Whose habits can be banned?

This last section notes that protecting the public's health can push some people into corners, for instance, California's increasingly strict laws against smoking in public.

Videos air struggles including Martin Luther King Jr. marches, and House Un-American Activities Committee hearings during the Cold War, which led to the blacklisting of thousands of teachers and government workers wrongly accused of disloyalty and the imprisonment of Hollywood writers and directors who refused to answer questions.

One section called "Do you remember" lets visitors share their stories. One person told about being poorly treated in 2005 for having a mixed race child, with a woman calling them "horrible things."

"I thought we lived in the 2000's, not the 1800's," the person wrote. "I wish ignorance would vanish!"

A legally married gay couple tells about receiving the third degree at customs when returning to the United States.

"Wherever There's a Fight" is a traveling exhibit from Exhibit Envoy, funded by the California Council for the Humanities, a Searching for Democracy Project. The Museum on Main has added from its own collections, including a selection of banned and challenged books.

The interactive displays also include comments on Post-it notes, which include:

* "We shouldn't vote for our rights. That's why they're called 'rights.'"

* "Education is the key to use of guns. It's the decision a person makes about when they point the gun (that) is the problem."

* "All people should be able to love whomever they wish. That's why we were granted 'freedom.'"

The museum also offers a chance for patrons to design their own protest buttons. "Keep your hands off my Internet," reads one.

The exhibit runs through Sept. 9. The Museum on Main is located at 603 Main St., open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Call 462-2766.


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