On-campus exhibit of John Lewis showcases his lifelong fight for racial justice

Barbara Sun

In light of the recent inauguration and President Donald Trump’s remarks about civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, D-Georgia, a new exhibit on campus chronicles Lewis’ fight for racial justice through a series of images adapted from a graphic novel.

The exhibit, called “March ON!,” opened last Tuesday and comprises original drawings by Nate Powell, an illustrator and musician. It also includes a variety of archived materials to provoke viewers to think about the Civil Rights era covered by the exhibit. 

“I never imagined that the images inside this exhibit would be so relevant to many of the issues that fellow students on campus are protesting today,” chemical engineering sophomore Kyrene Moe said.

Concern for social justice and empathy for the violence of racist treatment are only a few of the connections that visitors of the exhibit said they felt.

Finance junior James Comer said he was surprised by the power of the exhibit because it creates a message for all people.

“I am truly amazed at how the simple set up of the exhibit lends way to such a powerful message of acceptance and equality for all races of people in our nation,” Comer said. “Just in a small space on campus, I feel that this exhibit can unite the different backgrounds of students here.”

Curator Rebecca Giordano received her master’s in art history from UT in 2015. Giordano said she was inspired to organize this exhibit not only because of Lewis’ personal story, but also because she was impressed by Nate Powell’s brush-and-ink illustrations of the graphic novel. The addition of documentary photographs, pamphlets, comics and protest albums from the era all serve to help visitors think about the ideas behind the Civil Rights Movement spread in material ways, Giordano said.

Giordano said she hopes the exhibition will provide an opportunity for people to reflect on the past and present. 

“While there is no one thing that I hope viewers take away, I do hope the exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the many roles people can play in social movements including the ways that the strategies that proved successful were developed, honed and carried out by ordinary people for ordinary people,” Giordano said in an email. 

The exhibit will remain open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. until April 17 in the Christian-Green Gallery in Jester Center.