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Fighting for Freedom: Labor and Civil Rights in the American South Exhibit Opening and Panel Discuss

ATLANTA — The Georgia State University Library this week is opening the exhibition “Fighting for Freedom: Labor and Civil Rights in the American South” and launching the digital collection “AFL-CIO Southeast Division Civil Rights Department Records.”


Fighting for Freedom: Labor and Civil Rights in the American South Exhibit Opening

These collections, which include photographs, newspaper clippings, departmental records and audio-visual recordings, document the story of the labor unions and civil rights activists who fought together for the freedom of working people in the South.


The opening will feature a panel discussion on the 8th floor of Library South in Special Collections and Archives. The panel will be moderated by author and historian Dr. Maurice Hobson, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Georgia State University. His latest book, The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta, challenges the primary narrative of how the city’s power structure has treated poor and working-class Black Americans.

The panelists are:

  • Eric Richardson, Executive Director of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, a coalition of sixty affiliated unions that advocates for workers’ rights and the welfare of their families throughout the state.

  • Deborah Scott, Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Strategic Alliance for New Directions and Unified Policies, or Georgia STAND-UP, an alliance of community and labor activists dedicated to advancing equality and civil rights. Mrs. Scott has been recognized by the Obama White House for her dedication to community-based organizing, which has had a significant impact on the lives of Georgians and all those living throughout the South.

  • Dr. Robert Woodrum, Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Georgia State University. Dr. Woodrum’s extensive research explores the tensions between race and labor through the lens of economic and technological changes in the South throughout the twentieth century.

The exhibit explores how labor unions and civil rights activists worked together to fight for the freedom of working people in the South. These advocates included famous leaders from prominent nationwide groups such as the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but also local employees, union organizers, religious and community leaders, educators, students, and volunteers from across the South. The stories in this exhibit help demonstrate the powerful relationship between civil rights and economic freedom: we cannot have one without the other.

To celebrate the opening of both versions of “Fighting for Freedom,” the Georgia State University Library is hosting a panel discussion from 5 to 7 p.m. Sep. 28 on the eighth floor of Library South. Author and historian Maurice Hobson, associate professor of Africana Studies at Georgia State, will moderate the panel. The discussion will feature experts who will explore themes in “Fighting for Freedom.”

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. To RSVP, visit https://lib.gsu.edu/labor.

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