‘Unfinished Business’ At The Center For Reconciliation

I recently visited the Center for Reconciliation to check out the exhibit, “Unfinished Business: The Long Civil Rights Movement,” and I will be going back. There is a lot to take in here, but the photographs are so compelling and the exhibition is so well organized and presented, that I found myself studying every picture and reading every word, and I did not really finish the entire circuit around the room.

The Center for Reconciliation presents the gripping and inspiring exhibition Unfinished Business: The Long Civil Rights Movement, curated by the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ) at Brown University. The Civil Rights Movement (The Southern Freedom Movement) was a catalyst for social change in America, disrupting the legal system of Jim Crow and racial segregation. It was composed of ordinary Black women, men and children, many of whom placed their lives on the line to fight the laws of racial segregation. This exhibition tells the story of the relationship between the Black organizing tradition and the movement from the moment of emancipation until the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson. It is a story not often told, yet it is a necessary one for our times.

What I hadn’t expected was a soundtrack. An excellent playlist has been compiled to help support the experience. Spirituals, blues, gospel music, jazz, and the contemporary music of ’50s and ’60s, all evoke the culture surrounding the Civil Rights movement.

Founded in 2013, the Center for Reconciliation offers public programs, events, and exhibitions about the history and legacy of slavery, the slave trade, and the construction of race and racial identities in America.

The CFR launched Black History Month with a special exhibit (no longer up) and a newly designed self-guided historic walking tour, complete with a dynamite fold-up flier with map produced by GoProvidence.com and the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Providence Journal wrote up that event. The CFR also conducts guided tours.

Open Sundays — Located in the bottom floor of St. John’s Cathedral on North Main Street, the Center for Reconciliation is open Sundays, 11am to 4pm, and Mondays and Thursdays by appointment.

Big thanks to Traci Picard, Program and Research Associate for the Center, who was on hand for my visit. Picard helped write and research the walking tour — along with Elon Cook Lee and Julia Renaud — and is herself a tour guide.

‘Unfinished Business’ runs through April 26, free and open to the public, 11am to 4pm, Sundays, St. John’s Cathedral, 271 North Main Street, (directions)

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Access to the exhibit is through the main door of the old cathedral.

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