One of perks of being an editor at SITES is the diverse knowledge I pick up, allowing me to dream of one day being a contestant on Jeopardy. For instance, since Barack Obama’s election in November, I’ve been able to nod knowingly or challenge facts in the media coverage surrounding this landmark event, based on my work on several SITES shows now on the road.
As soon as Obama was elected president, there was a lot of talk about the logistics of his family’s move to the White House, what they’d be eating, and if they’d plant a vegetable garden on the South Lawn. Thanks to The Working White House and The White House Garden, I knew what the chief usher does, who Cristeta Comerford is, and that John Quincy Adams and Jimmy Carter had an interest in growing vegetables and herbs.
At the pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, actor Samuel L. Jackson praised Rosa Parks for bringing "that distant hope [for justice] one step closer by the simple act of refusing to move to the back of the bus.” From my work on 381 Days: The Montgomery Bus Boycott Story, I knew there was more to it. As Charles E. Cobb Jr. wrote in the exhibition brochure, "Nor was Rosa Parks simply a weary seamstress too tired to rise from her seat. She was also secretary of the local NAACP chapter, one of the strongest in the South.” (For more on this, visit NPR’s On the Media.)
Two days later, in his inaugural address, President Obama described himself as “a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant.” It was Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954), one of the 20 women featured in Freedom’s Sisters, who filed the lawsuit against a Washington restaurant that refused to serve her. In 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Terrell’s favor, and the nation’s capital finally began to desegregate.
Now that the Obamas are settling into the White House and making the place their own, they may wish to jazz up the living quarters with works by Romare Bearden and William H. Johnson, two of the latest additions to SITES’ exhibition portfolio.--Ann Carper, SITES editor