Browse Exhibits (15 total)


Voices from Confinement: A Look Inside Texas Prisons and Containment

From the rehabilitative labor prisons of the Jacksonian Era, to the modern day immigration detention facility, incarceration in its very definition separates people believed to pose a threat to society. In addition to a physical disconnect, there is also a societal divide attached to containment that strips the incarcerated of their voice in society, which limits their ability to speak up about their experiences and abuse they ecnounter within their confinement. Whether the incarceration is a result of xenophobia, racial discrimination, or actual justified cause, this schism creates negative stereotypes and misinformation at the expense of the incarcerated.  

This exhibit explores the effects of incarceration and internment from the 1940s to the 90s through the lens of these incarcerated peoples. Since incarcerated and detainees have a very limited voice in society and are often overlooked, we hope to share some of their thoughts on the realities of containment. The overall goal of this exhibit is to shed light on the personal qualities of incarcerated people in order to restore their dignity and give insight to the issues and problems that incarcerated people face within containment.  

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Bridging Gaps, Creating Change, and Defining Heritage at the University of Texas

This exhibit highlights key figures that have exemplified this change throughout the University’s history. By analyzing long-forgotten publications, individual correspondences, and personal narratives found in the campus archives, these key figures bridged gaps, created change, and helped to define the heritage in which students still participate today.

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Tracking Relocation and Adaptation Throughout History

Sourced from diverse collections, this exhibit highlights ethnic communities' struggles in attempting to relocate, relate to other cultures as the minority, and ultimately, uphold their ethnic culture simultaneously. With a unique twist to each collections' situation and focus, we will examine and understand the experiences of Haitian, Latinx, and Muslim American communities at different points in history through archival analysis.

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Snapshots: Community Networks and Media Ephemerality

This exhibit includes an array ephemeral pieces, all of which give insight into how non-majority communities communicate both with themselves and with others via creative outlets. 

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Injustices in Publishing

The publishing world has a history of limiting the voices that do not reflect a white, male, straight, or middle-class point of view. Narratives told by people like Sanora Babb and James Baldwin are few and far between due to this reality.

Sanora Babb is not the first writer who comes to mind when reflecting on the Great Depression or Dust Bowl. The first figures who come to mind are authors like John Steinbeck, who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, and photographers like Dorothea Lange. As historians attempt to dig deeper and understand the period more, perspectives like Babb's are more important than ever. She was a woman who had experienced homelessness herself, as she fled Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. What separates Babb from others is that she was not only documenting her surroundings, but she was one of the people whose story should be documented and a part of the historical record. 

James Baldwin's influence has recently returned into American culture, with film adaptations of his works including I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk receiving commercial and critical success. Centering on the black experience in racially torn 1960s-1970s America, these books and films are the first works people think of when they remember Baldwin. Yet, despite its initial critical acclaim, Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, a story featuring a homosexual relationship between two white men in Paris, is often overlooked and forgotten. From Baldwin's initial efforts to publish it, white publishing companies thought it lacked what they had come to expect from Baldwin: narratives strictly regarding the "black experience."

Found in the "Sanora Babb Papers" and the "Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reject Letters" collections at the Harry Ransom Center, Sanora Babb and James Baldwin's stories unearth the marginalization that both faced in navigating a publishing world not designed for them. 

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Gender Roles in the Public and Private Sphere: Marriage and Reproductive Health

This exhibit aims to explore the concepts of gender identity in both the private and public spheres. Though the materials represented are from vastly different time periods, their thematic congruency still enlightens gender discrepancies within their respective communities. Examining these archival materials through an intersectional lens, we are able to see previously underrepresented narratives and further research and contextualize their roles, themes, and positionings within their time periods.

In this exhibit, I will examine the ways in which reproductive health is conceptualized within a relationship and how the expected gender roles and power dynamics within a relationship alter the accessibility of reproductive health and sexual health for women. I will focus on Latino relationships and culture and examine how power imbalances in a relationship can infringe on the body autonomy of women.

Using "The lavves resolvtions to womens rights" as a jumping-off point, I will seek to examine the role intersex individuals assumed within the early Enlightenment society in England. I will explore both intersex positioning within the resolute gender binary present at the time, while also looking at the ideological shift of intersexual perception within law and medicine. 

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Photograph of Ernesto Villalongin

Mexican-American Identity in the Southwest

In the American Southwest, particularly in Texas, there is a strong sense of regional identity connected to Mexico and the border that divides the two. This is due to the large population that identifies with Mexican heritage, from individuals who emigrated in the 2000's to those whose ancestors emigrated in the 1800s. Today, that identity is condensed into the concept of being a "Mexican-American", in part defined by the journeys taken by their ancestors from Mexico to the US and often back again. The traversing of a "border", whether legal or conceptual, is often integral to identity formation and something we hope to explore through this exhibit.

In order to trace the identity of Mexican-Americans in the Southwestern United States, or "Borderlands", the exhibit will look at artifacts from a 19th century Spanish-language theatre troupe to photos of migrant farmers of the 1930s, to contemporary scripts continuing the legacy of the 20th century Chicano movement.

By Kira Azulay, Ashton Sauseda, Brennan Upchurch

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The Birth Control Movement in 1930s America

The birth control movement in the United States began in the early 1900s by many activist groups and individual citizens, such as Margaret Sanger, who founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL), now called Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and coined the term ‘birth control.' During the same time period, Mary Dennet founded the National Birth Control League (NBCL), and pursued legal action to create legal access to contraceptives. 

This exhibit will explore the activism and legality surrounding the birth control movement during the 1930s, as Americans adjusted to the change in status and access around birth control. Legitimate and illegitimate forms of publishing and advertising will be showcased along with the change in legal status of birth control pertaining to the Comstock Law and obscenity laws. The motivations for this movement will be underscored through the exhibit, highlighting eugenics, population control, women's rights, and choice in family planning. 

Artifacts are sourced from lawyer and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) co-founder, Morris Ernst's, personal collection, held at the Harry Ransom Center. Ernst was a civil rights lawyer for the American Birth Control League and other human rights institutions and citizens between 1915-1976. This exhibit will preform as a snapshot of what is preserved and available to study at the Harry Ransom Center pertaining to Ernst, birth control, legality, or women's rights, and the histories Ernst's documents hold. 

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Strategies to Promote Black Equality

This exhibit highlights specific events during the struggle for Black equality in the United States. We link them through the common theme of promoting Black equality and we explore how local strategies expanded into the national struggle against white supremacy.

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Political Freedoms of Women

This exhibit explores first-wave feminism in the U.S. and England and second-wave feminism in the U.S. With a focus on activist strategies, this will examine the wider expansion of these movements, their portrayal in the media, and their modern impact. The progression of the feminist movement overtime contributes to our understanding of social movements and the media, and translates into how we view these in the modern day. The strategies of early women's movements, like parading, and ideas of women's rights reflected in these movements develop a foundation for the modern women's movement. 

  • Photographs from the Christina Livingston Broom collection are courtsey of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. 
  • Documents from the Austin Women's Suffrage Records are courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Documents from the Bonnie Huval Papers are courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

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The Cold War and Competing Visions of Human Rights

This online exhibit, consisting of a selection of items from the Maurice Cranston collection at the Harry Ransom Center, draws upon the philosophical inquiry into the nature of human rights as presented by British philosopher Maurice Cranston. This exhibit contextualizes Cranston's depiction of moral rights as an a priori critique of contemporary visions of human rights within the backdrop of the Cold War and the social justice, political, and economic movements of that era. A theoretical and historical approach to the paradigm debate between positive and negative rights will demonstrate the social ontology of human rights in contemporary political and social justice discourse.

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Reclaiming Sexualities: An Exploration of Marginalized Sexuality in the 20th Century

While our project as a whole focuses broadly on America's hidden histories, this exhibit is specifically dedicated to the histories of groups who have been oppressed because of their sexuality or sexual identity. Each of these collections interacts with the idea of reclaiming sexuality through revolutionary empowerment for these marginalized groups, with a particular focus on the experiences of women and queer people.

The colletions are expansive in topic and intersectional in nature. The Morris Ernst papers cover a 1929 court case concerning women's reproductive rights and explore the extensive history of legal figures using moralistic rhetoric to disenfranchise women in 20th century America. The documents that cover "The Great Lesbian Wars" examine class tensions and other issues within the Political Lesbian Movement and broader lesbian community of the transformative 1960s. Meanwhile, the Feminist Zines collection of the 1970s explores the progression of various "waves" of the feminist movement and examines both the strengths and problems of this controversial movement through a display of homemade alternative magazines. Finally, the Noticias collection delves into a narrative about a gay Hispanic community in Houston, Texas during the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis. 

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Institutional Reactions to Student Activism

This exhibit investigates several historical instances of politically motivated student activism and how institutions such as the federal government, police agencies, and college administrations reacted to them.

The first section discusses the Iranian Hostage Situation. It details some of the decisions the United States' federal government made during the hostage situation as a strategy to pressure Iran and ensure the release of embassy workers.

The next page of the exhibit, 1960s UT Activism and Enforcement, details the rise of student activism on UT-Austin’s campus with special emphasis on the use of underground newspapers and the Students for a Democratic Society organization. This part of the exhibit also explains how local police agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation aided in the documentation and suppression of student activism on campus.

The final page of the exhibit, Motivations for Surveillance, draws from the same collection but focuses on administrative memoranda from the University of Texas. This section of the exhibit provides an institutional view of the conflicts that took place on campus in the 1960s, including the changing power dynamic between the students and the university adminsitration, the influence of national politics on university affairs, and the pressure from external groups to push back against student activism.

The common thread that connects the three sections is a view of activism as a reciprocal process that involves the activists, their audience, and the institutions that are forced to respond to challenges to their authority. As you view this exhibit, please consider the connections between these materials and reflect on the complexities of activism and the responses it often generates.

Disclaimer: This page uses archival material from the collections of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The nature of these documents limited the scope of our research, and many of the narratives explored in this exhibit invite further inquiry. Many more social and political factors contributed to institutional reactions to student activism. The curators hope that this exhibit will serve as a useful source to researchers but encourage the user to reference other sources as well.

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John L. Spivak and the Role of Investigative Journalism in Exposing Mass Incarceration as New Slavery

Formed from a selection of the John L. Spivak papers and photographs, this exhibit displays the importance of investigative journalism in exposing systematic mistreatment of black prisoners in southern prisons and in promoting policy changes during the Progressive Era. This specific campus archive can reveal the “hidden history” of a form of slavery after its abolition through photographic and journalistic evidence, and how this form of investigation began to be used to counteract the issue of social injustice, as well as raise awareness of worker's rights.

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The Cause of the Texas Farm Workers' Union

The Texas Farm Workers' Union was an energetic, radical organization with a particular affinity toward direct actions such as wildcat strikes and highly publicized marches. The group, facing incredibly steep odds and with only extremely limited outside support, evidently decided that this particular style of agitation was their best chance at finally achieving the unionization of farm laborers in Texas.

Their urgent, bold, and anti-authoritarian organizational philosophy is a reflection of the strained relationships the Texas Farm Workers' Union had with farm owners and the Texas State government— traditional enemies of labor organizing— as well as with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers, a less obvious adversary.

The story of the Texas Farm Workers' Union has unsettling implications for the modern observer. Despite their noble cause, the Union was eventually forced to cease operations due to financial difficulties. This points to the limitations of our political system and the injustices that remain entrenched within it, especially those between Texan farm owners and their workers.

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