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An evening with authors to celebrate 50 years of the ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is dedicated to racial justice among many other things.

The Chapel Hill Public Library hosted authors, Kenneth Janken and Joseph Mosnier Thursday to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of ACLU-NC.

The event was part of a traveling 10-panel history exhibit, "ACLU-NC: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty," which chronicles the primary principles prioritized by the ACLU-NC: free speech, racial justice, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform and religious liberty. 

Founded in Greensboro in 1965, the ACLU-NC is a non-profit organization committed to protecting and extending individual rights established by federal and state laws. To accomplish this, the ACLU-NC promotes advocacy and community outreach with programs like the current exhibition.

“This state would be a lot worse without the ACLU,” Janken said.

This particular aspect of the exhibition focused on the ACLU-NC’s dedication to racial justice. Teaming up with the UNC Press, the event featured a thorough history of racial injustice and pioneers in the legal battle for equality in North Carolina, led by the authors. 

Janken, director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC, explained the history of the Wilmington Ten as depicted in his upcoming book "The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s."

The Wilmington Ten was a group of civil rights activists wrongfully charged for burning down a store and shooting at police officers and firefighters during the 1971 riots in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Mosnier, assistant director for strategy and communications at N.C. State University's Institute for Emerging Issues, described the life of Julius Chambers, a tenacious black lawyer with a pivotal role in various landmark Supreme Court cases in the fight for racial justice, such as Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

"It's a great part the history," Mosnier said. "It happened here in North Carolina."

More of Mosnier’s research can be found in his upcoming co-authored book with Richard Rosen, "Julius ChambersHis Civil Rights Law Firm and the Civil Rights Struggle in North Carolina." 

Aside from various events such as this with speakers and presentations, the exhibit features a visual component with photographs and narratives. Debuting at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, the exhibition will remain at the library for several weeks.

The readers' services coordinator at Chapel Hill Public Library, Susan Maguire, said the exhibition has had a positive response from the public.

“People are stopping to look at the pictures and read it,” Maguire said. “It seems to be a good reception.”

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