The Arc of Justice Project is the flagship initiative of The Arc of Justice Institute. It consists of a suite of efforts designed to recognize the heroic and vital contribution lawyers and judges made to the American civil rights movement. Its two main components are Under the Color of Law, a traveling exhibit and, Hidden Legal Figures, the accompanying public education programs.
Efforts for this rule of law initiative began formally in 2016 but its origin hearkens back to a 2012 middle school field trip. As a sixth-grade student, Sydney Alizabeth Pope visited various Alabama civil rights museums and her father, Derrick Alexander Pope, was one of the parent volunteers. Each museum vividly captured the better-known aspects of the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Bloody Sunday, and the March on Washington. Still, there was something missing. The critical and indispensable contribution of lawyers and judges was nowhere to be found.
In 2015, Pope was appointed Co-Chair of the State Bar of Georgia Committee to Promote Inclusion in the Profession. Recalling the cultural and educational opportunity he observed three years earlier, Pope thought the Committee, given its unique mission, could be a suitable group to undertake the effort of bringing into existence an exhibit focused on the contributions of lawyers to the cause of civil rights. After evaluating the feasibility of the idea and meeting with select individuals, he presented the concept to the committee on January 15, 2016, which approved it unanimously. In addition, Pope presented the idea to the State Bar Executive Committee at its April meeting gaining their endorsement. The concept was announced as an initiative at the 2016 State Bar of Georgia Commitment to Equality Awards.
The Committee named the initiative The Arc of Justice Project and established a Content Council to identify the key moments in American jurisprudence that should be reflected in the exhibit. The council immediately set about the task of developing the narrative and overall scope of the exhibit, ultimately deciding to complete the project in two (2) phases with each serving a distinct and strategic purpose. Phase 1 will secure the creation of a traveling exhibit and accompanying public programs. Phase 2 will concentrate on the acquisition of artifacts and other collections which, along with the core exhibits, will become The Arc of Justice Pavilion. In December 2017, the State Bar of Georgia adopted the traveling exhibit as a bar initiative.
The committee later determined that the necessary tasks associated with an initiative of this magnitude exceeded its its capabilities. The Arc of Justice Institute was established in January 2018 to administer, govern, and manage the project and Pope was named President and Managing Director.
Few know of the historic and vital contribution lawyers and judges made to the success of the American Civil Rights Movement. In fact, legal and judicial efforts ensuring civil and human rights span the entirety of our nation's existence. Lawyers like Levi Lincoln and Caleb Strong were pursuing civil and human rights as early as the late 1700's. In the 1800's, judges like William Cushing and Henry Kent McCay made equality the order of the day in their courtrooms.
But the concentrated effort of lawyers and judges of the twentieth century deserve special recognition. They issued and advanced the call to establish justice. They pried loose the meaning of equal protection of the laws. And they forged into existence a more perfect union. These legal figures - men and women, black and white - have remained hidden too long. They should be in plain view, and the work they did and its importance to the nation should be recognized in a manner that is meaningful, lasting, and beneficial. We believe an exhibit is a grand and befitting means of accomplishing this goal and we are beginning with a traveling exhibit we call Under the Color of Law.
Comprised of four, theme styled immersive exhibits, Under the Color of Law will depict the legal efforts associated with securing and protecting individual rights and liberties beginning in the colonial period and continuing through the modern civil rights movement. The travelling exhibit, which is being developed in partnership with National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, will premiere in February 2021. Museums, law schools, history centers, and other places of public interest will host the exhibit and international venues will also figure in its traveling cycle . Ultimately, the four exhibits - the first of their kind in civic and cultural education - will, along with supporting collections and artifacts, come to reside in a permanent location under the name The Arc of Justice Pavilion.
More detailed information about the four featured exhibits coming soon. . .
I think the movement would have been a failure without the presence and support of great lawyers. . . I hope that whenever we speak of the movement we would give to the next generation a wider view and greater understanding of their contribution." - Rev. Otis Moss, Jr.
Our public education efforts are presented as seminar programs and as a podcast. Hidden Legal Figures: Conversations with the Unsung began in February 2018 with programs held at each of our partner law schools throughout Georgia. The programs feature notable speakers who provide either a first-person account of or richly researched reflections about the legal efforts associated with one of the most pivotal moments in American history - the Civil Rights Movement. In 2019, the series will continue in Georgia in partnership with local bar associations and expand to law schools in other states.
Hidden Legal Figures: The Podcast rediscovers the untold legal stories of the Civil Rights Movement. Nationally recognized experts in law and history explore the heroic and vital contributions lawyers and judges made to one of the most pivotal moments in American history, explain what that role meant to the nation then, and examine what it means for us today. Coming October 2019.
Hidden Legal Figures is supported, in part, by a Georgia Bar Foundation Fellows Grant with additional support from the Atlanta office of JonesDay.
The Arc of Justice Project addresses the impact the law had on solving the problems of yesterday. But we are just as concerned about the challenges that today presents. We believe it is necessary to examine how legal efforts are currently shaping and responding to the most pressing civil and human rights issues. With this in mind, our inaugural ideas conference – The Arc of Justice Ideas Ex+Change – will produce and present the best thinking available about the work that is being done – and needs to be done – to make our long held ideals a reality. The inaugural conference will take place in February 2021, along with the premiere of the traveling exhibit. Set against the backdrop of a mock constitutional convention, the inaugural conference will examine select constitutional principles in light of more than 200 years of experience