Opening of the “Voices and Votes” exhibit at the Aiken County Historical Museum
July 23—New faces are in place for the local presentation of Voices and Votes: Democracy in America, as the month-long project includes some highlights over the next few days, with a new exhibit beginning a six-week run today at the Aiken County Historical Museum and a free symposium scheduled today at the Second Baptist Church.
“History of Democracy in South Carolina,” scheduled for 5 p.m., will be “a lively symposium on the dramatic events and turbulent history of suffrage in South Carolina and Aiken County,” as indicated in the promotional material. The discussion should be between Drs. Walter Edgar, Bobby Donaldson and Tom Mack.
The church’s base of operations, following a massive renovation and relocation project, is 1151 York St. NE
Edgar, with decades of experience in education at the University of South Carolina, is widely known for his role as host of Walter Edgar’s Diary on South Carolina Public Radio. Donaldson, an associate professor of history also at USC, grew up on Beech Island and directs the university’s Center for Civil Rights History and Research. Mack, an Aiken Standard columnist and longtime educator at USC Aiken, is the author of a variety of compositions on American literature and cultural history. They are from Alabama, Georgia and Pennsylvania respectively.
The museum is located at 433 Newberry St. SW, at the intersection with South Boundary Avenue. Free entry. The exhibit was developed by the National Museum of American History and adapted for travel by Museum on Main Street. It is described in promotional materials as “a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and state humanities councils across the country.” The exhibition is to be held until September 2.
“The largest exhibit has been compressed and made portable, so it can be shared with smaller communities, and this year one of their exhibits…is touring the state of South Carolina, and South Carolina Humanities kind of acted as the broker,” said Doug Rabold, secretary of the local Voices and Votes program committee.
“They received applications from various communities across the state who wanted to exhibit this traveling exhibit, and Aiken was chosen to be one of six privileged to exhibit it,” he added.
The main exhibit, with material representing the entire country, is in the Ballroom. A smaller exhibit, with a variety of artifacts representing South Carolina and Aiken County in particular, is a few feet away in the living room.
“It features the history of Aiken County as it relates to the history of voting rights or significant moments in the history of elections and voting,” said Lauren Virgo, the museum’s executive director.
The show’s exhibit includes “the local component as well as some of the interactive activities that were also sent by the Smithsonian for adults and children to enjoy,” she added.
Reverend Doug Slaughter, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist, also joined in the discussion. “This exhibition could not have come at a more appropriate time for us, with the realization that democracy is still ongoing and can go off the rails, especially when citizens take it for granted,” he said. writing.
“The exhibition captures the struggle and the importance of our participation in the democratic process using our votes and our voices,” he added. “Someone once said that those who don’t remember history might be doomed to repeat it.”
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Related events on the near horizon include a book conference scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, July 29 at the Center for African American History, Art and Culture on York Street. The speaker will be Judge Richard Gergel, a Columbia native who serves in Charleston and is the author of “Unexampled Courage.” Gergel’s book examines the legal ramifications of the case of Isaac Woodward, a Fairfield County native, a World War II veteran who was permanently blinded following a 1946 attack by police officers in Batesburg then that he was on a bus trip, returning home after duty in the Pacific Theater.
Also within the next month, a symposium will be held at the USC Aiken Etherredge Center at 7 p.m. on August 18. The theme will be “Voting Matters: Suppression and Disenfranchisement”.
“The Big Debate,” a one-act drama based on the concept of Frederick Douglass debating Susan B. Anthony, will unfold at 11 a.m. Aug. 24 at the Etherredge Center, themed suffrage; and a book conference titled “One Woman, One Vote” is scheduled for August 26 at 6 p.m. at the Center for African American History, Art, and Culture. The featured author will be Marjorie Spruill, a retired University of South Carolina professor who compiled “this anthology of insightful research from leading historians and contemporary writings on the suffrage movement in the United States, involving generations of women’s rights advocates,” as described on the local Voices and Votes website. All events are free.