Monday, November 14, 2016

ACLU of Georgia: Voting Rights

This is the third in a series of posts about the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Records, which were processed in 2015 and are now open for research. These records document the ACLU of Georgia's litigation, lobbying, and public education efforts to protect civil liberties for all Georgians. Their work, which began in 1963, involves issues such as freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process of law, and opposing discrimination against many groups. This series of posts was written by Shaniqua Singleton, a student at the UGA School of Law, who was instrumental in processing these papers.

"Save the Voting Rights Act" cover
from Southern Changes, 1981.
Series II, Box 40, Folder 8.
In what has turned out to be an eventful and important election year, members of the general electorate have just cast their votes for America’s next president. On the face of it, the process of voting seems simple enough: an individual registers to vote, identifies a polling place, and casts a ballot, fulfilling what many view as a crucial civic duty. However, this simplistic description glosses over a long and continuing discussion about voting rights in the United States. The ACLU of Georgia frequently has been at the forefront of this discussion.

"Get Your Vote Back" pamphlet
produced by the ACLU for
ex-felons, 2008.
Series I, Box 8, Folder 51.
Over the years, the ACLU of Georgia has worked to protect and secure the voting rights of all segments of the population. The organization believes in the importance of the democratic process and seeks to promote voting regulations that incentivize as many people to vote as possible. The ACLU monitors electoral processes throughout the state to ensure the rights of voters are protected and litigates matters related to voting rights when needed, such as challenging the compliance of judicial elections with the Voting Rights Act or challenging redistricting plans for racial discrimination. Additionally, the ACLU engages in a number of voter education campaigns and actively works to reform laws allowing felon disenfranchisement.

"Vote No on SB 84 and HB 244" ACLU talking
points against legislation requiring a photo
ID to vote, 2005. Series IV, Box 7, Folder 36.
A key example of the ACLU of Georgia’s work in this area is its effort to challenge voter identification requirements. The records of the ACLU of Georgia highlight one such case. In Common Cause v. Billups (2005-2009), the ACLU challenged the Georgia General Assembly’s revision of the state’s voter identification laws. The new law limited the number of permissible forms of identification to 5, a significant reduction from the 17 different forms of identification previously allowed, and required individuals to pay for voter identification cards. The ACLU ultimately lost on this matter, but researchers interested in viewing these records will find many documents, including arguments filed with the courts, court orders, and debates among amicus curiae (“friends of the court”), illustrating the nuances of voting rights and the efforts of the ACLU to protect these rights. There are also materials in Series IV. Legislation related to photo ID requirements. Researchers might especially be interested in these records, since the arguments set forth by the ACLU echo much of the dialogue regarding voter turnout and participation heard in this election season.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Fall Exhibits Reception Promises History, Drama

Athens, Ga. – The Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries at the University of Georgia will host a reception celebrating new exhibitions on display Nov. 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts Festival, the event will include light refreshments, live music, and an interactive student performance. The reception is free and open to the public.

“Performing the Archives,” a class led by Dr. Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, is a course where undergraduate students have spent the fall semester exploring collections in the political archives using the campaign exhibit “On the Stump: What Does it Take to Get Elected in Georgia,” as their framework. The ensemble selected one of Georgia’s most dramatic events – the Three Governors Controversy – to serve as inspiration for developing their original performance. Staged in spaces throughout the building, students will transport attendees to 1947 for this moment in the state’s political history aided by costumes, props, food from White Tiger Gourmet, and music from local string duo Hog-Eyed Man to set the scene.

“Supported by the CTL Special Collections Fellows Program, the ensemble is thrilled to share the entertaining results of what happens when you let artists loose in the archive,” said Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin. “Because the students are using devised theatre techniques—that is, making a piece of theatre without a script but rather from creative experiments with archival material, they will share in the audience’s surprise of what this final performance will be. It will be a memorable night, indeed!”

In addition to the student performance, visitors will also have the chance to explore new exhibits on display, many of which were curated by or in collaboration with UGA students.
Dixie Gallups, a second year in the Historic Preservation graduate program, co-curated “50 Years of Foxfire,” which explores the history of the organization dedicated to documenting folk life and customs in the Appalachian Mountains. “My experience as a student curator working on this exhibit was challenging, time consuming, and exciting,” said Gallups. “This work has opened up an entire new world of possibilities and career paths for me. I think it’s safe to say that now I’m hooked on exhibits!”

Over the past two years the University of Georgia has taken significant steps toward making sure that all students engage in these kinds of hands-on experiences during their time on campus. “One of our primary goals is to serve as a teaching library, collaborating with faculty and students to support all stages of the learning process by exploring a variety of teaching and outreach methods,” said Toby Graham, university librarian and associate provost. “The Libraries’ leadership in initiatives like the Digital Humanities Lab, the Special Collections Libraries Faculty Fellows Program and new proposals now in development to create internship opportunities that meet the requirements of the new experiential learning curriculum are all steps in furtherance of that of that goal.”

Current exhibitions on display in the galleries include: “The Year of Georgia Music,” “Every Drop Counts: Managing Georgia’s Water Supply,” “50 Years of Foxfire,” “Keep Your Seats Everyone…The Redcoats are Coming!” “On the Stump: What Does it Take to Get Elected in Georgia,” and the annual exhibition honoring new inductees into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.

For more information about the event, visit the Facebook Event Page

the Special Collections Libraries call 706.542.7123 or visit