No, you won’t be splashed in your face with vinegar and dusted by pepper, or beaten by fists of furious racial segregation supporters when you try, 50 years after, to crawl inside the skin of activists to experience what they did during their peaceful action aimed to stop discrimination in the south of the U.S.A.
But, for a short time you will have headphones put on your ears as a part of a simulator in the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. There, you’re going to be exposed to humiliation rhetoric, threats, and other types of the hatred speech which used to be routine when it came towards towards African-American people who tried to stand up for their rights.
On the junction of 1950-60s the African-American Civil Rights Movement against segregation became a nation-wide movement for civil rights and liberties, the famous “sit-ins” as a form of non-violent protest against discrimination. Documentaries, pictures, films and other journalistic arts still have been conveying a touch of the epoch which has enormously contributed in shaping an American nation the way we know it now.
And today, in a digital era, you can get immersed in that past even deeper in order to better understand the challenge the brave civil rights activists, both black and white, had faced.
A backdrop for the sit-in simulator installation is a famous AP photograph, dated by May 28, 1963, and picturing a group of whites pouring sugar, ketchup and mustard over the heads of Tougaloo College demonstrators – from left to right: professor John Salter and students Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody – at a sit-in demonstration at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Jackson, Miss.
Hundreds of activists were prosecuted by southern states’ authorities, wanting to preserve the racial inequality forever, which was being welcomed by many voters, too.
But probably the most important angle of this story was a role of the federal government: US President Dwight Eisenhower dispatched paratroopers of 101st Airborne Division to escort nine black kids into the all-white Central High School amid racial protests. The commitment to rule of law have been a vivid illustration of the national unity based on common values.
Don’t take it for granted. Stand up for your rights. The modern history has taught us many lessons on what happens when people give that up.