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Sometimes We Must Interfere: Online Exhibit

Activism in Northern Illinois

Sometimes We Must Interfere: Activism in Northern Illinois

Activism is used to bring about political or social change often through direction action in the support of or opposition to a controversial issue. It is a way to bring together people who have shared interests, to form a common identity through dialog, and to act collectively to exercise influence. Activism often starts as grassroots movements that gain momentum over time becoming a part of the regional, national, or even global consciousness. There are many reasons why people participate in activism. Forms of activism range from writing letters and opinion pieces to political campaigning and voting to sit-ins, rallies, and marches to forming organizations. Many of the issues that receive majority focus today are the same as those which activists have been fighting for over the past century, including equal rights, labor rights, and anti-war and violence. If we are to learn anything from history, such as the Kent State shootings, the ‘Battle for Seattle,’ and the Ferguson, Los Angeles, Watts, Stonewall, and 1968 Democratic National Convention riots, it is the violence is an extreme action that should be the last steps taken, if ever taken, to push for change.

The Regional History Center has chosen to showcase events that have affected campus and the communities of Northern Illinois. The forms that best represent activism and change ‘at home’ involve strikes, demonstrations, protests, boycotts, voting behaviors, and the establishment of organizations and committees. This display does not full represent every issue or cause that has received attention, but highlights the various forms of activism that have happened in the region, especially those that are most notable in recent memory. The aim of the exhibit is to illustrate how and why activists in Northern Illinois have promoted change. Displays are not meant to speak for or against an issue and instead are meant to provide visitors with a general history of activism in the area as well as a general sense of the variety of materials held in the Archives. We hope that you enjoy our exhibit.

Strikes

Organizing and organizations are a way to bring those together with shared interests. They also allow individuals to act collectively to exercise influence, using the power of numbers to further a cause and fight for change. Represented in this case are organizations, committees, and other groups established on campus and in the local Northern Illinois communities to fight together for or against an issue that affects their quality of life. 

Organizations

Organizing and organizations are a way to bring those together with shared interests. They also allow individuals to act collectively to exercise influence, using the power of numbers to further a cause and fight for change. Represented in this case are organizations, committees, and other groups established on campus and in the local Northern Illinois communities to fight together for or against an issue that affects their quality of life. 

Voting

 The right to vote has been a constant struggle from many in our Nation’s past. The U.S. Constitution now bears four amendments (15th, 19th, 24th and 26th) giving all citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, or socioeconomic status for those age 18 and above.

In the U.S. it is a civil right and essential to the democratic process to be able to vote on all sorts of matters. Activists cherish this right and understands its power which can be used to further causes and promote change. It is often comes down voting behavior of constituents that ultimately leads to changes in policies or norms. Casting a vote is a way for you to take a stance on the issues and have your voice be heard. Every time you vote, no matter on how small or large the issue, you are not only protecting your right to do so but also participating in activism. Displayed in this case are materials related to some of the issues, causes, activities, and organizations from NIU and the Northern Illinois region that pertain to voting and voting behavior. 

Demonstrations, Protests, & Boycotts

The issues revolving around the protests and demonstrations of today are much the same as those in the past century. Represented here are some of the activities that have happened on campus and in local communities.

The most infamous demonstration that occurred on campus happened on May 4, 1970 after the four students were shot to death by National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State University. Within hours of the shootings student demonstrations occurred on campuses all over the U.S., including at NIU where 8000 NIU students joined in the nation-wide protests with a peaceful student march on downtown DeKalb.  However, the demonstrations did not stop there.  On May 14 at Jackson State College in Jackson Mississippi, two more student demonstrators were shot and killed.  This set off a series of protest events at NIU, some of which are documented in this case.

Credit

Featured Collections

UA 11 Audio Visual Collection
UA 18 Faculty Papers
UA 35 Student Activities Records
UA 37 Student Association Records
Norther Yearbooks
RC 19 Richard J. Nelson Collection
RC 26 H.W. Fay Portrait Collection
RC 28 Lipscomb Collection: 1968 Democratic National Convention (Chicago)
RC 143 Joliet Region League of Women Voters Records
RC 180 Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce Records
RC 200 Oversize Collection - Maps, Posters, Photographs, Calendars, Drawings
RC 217 Burlington Railroad Strike Collection (Aurora)
RC 249 Nineteenth Century Political Cartoons Collection
RC 262 Northern Illinois Granges Collection
RC 264 DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace and Justice Collection
RC 267 Rockford Peace and Justice Action Committee Records
RC 313 United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum, & Plastic Workers of America (Local 704) Records
RC 317 Jane Heckman Papers

This exhibit was created by the staff of the Regional History Center, a unique component of the Northern Illinois University’s commitment to education, research, and public service.The Center’s goal is to acquire, preserve, and make available to the public the most significant historical records of the northern Illinois region.  The Center actively collects historical material from the 18 northernmost counties of Illinois, excluding Cook.  Since 1964 the Center has evolved from a small university archive to a multifaceted research center containing three related sets of historical records available to researchers: Regional Collections, University Archives, and Local Governmental Records.