Looking Back at the Lincoln Exhibit: A Conversation with Jametoria Burton

Last month, FSCJ wrapped up its presentation of “Lincoln: The Constitution and Civil War,” a sweeping exhibition of multidisciplinary programming spanning all five campuses from Jan. 27 to March 5.

The main exhibit, sponsored by the National Constitution Center, the American Library Association Public Programs Office and the National Endowment for the Humanities, traveled between Kent Campus and South Campus during its stay in Jacksonville, while engaging discussions and other supporting events took place across the entire college system.

Getting the Lincoln Exhibit here was no easy task. In the last four years it’s been hosted at over 250 locations across the country–each carefully selected based on certain criteria.

Jametoria Burton, associate director of program development in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department, led an effort to submit the proposal that brought the Lincoln Exhibit to FSCJ, and coordinated with other departments across the college to develop content that would have a real impact in the Jacksonville community.

Burton sat down with The Campus Voice to discuss the exhibit, the importance of Lincoln and the Constitution and the need for dynamic instruction that ties into the larger framework of the community in which we live.

 

Jametoria Burton poses after an in-depth interview. (Photo by Connor St. George)
Jametoria Burton poses after an in-depth interview. (Photo by Connor St. George)

What made you want to bring this exhibit to FSCJ?

“This particular exhibit just caught my eye because it had connections to history. I thought that this was a wonderful opportunity for FSCJ to host an exhibit of this size and stature…We’ve never done anything like this before and I thought it was time. I was also inspired by the Jacksonville Public Library, because they were selected as a host [for the Lincoln Exhibit], so I had actually seen it before.”

What was involved in getting it here?

“What was required was a proposal that included a number of different possible programs that could be developed around the exhibit. I identified some faculty advocates who also would be helpful in helping me to submit ideas to strengthen the proposal and give linkages to the academic curriculum here. Actually, one of my faculty partners in this process was Dr. Maureen McCormick, who is a professor of history at Deerwood….oftentimes I would be a speaker for her class and we would do joint visits to Kingsley Plantation, so in writing this proposal she was a natural fit for coming up with ideas for how we could market the exhibit and come up with related programming.”

How did the exhibit inspire and educate students?

“I certainly think that it gave students the opportunity to connect their learning across disciplines with a number of themes that pertain to the Civil War, and the presidency of Lincoln–and just the whole value, and meaning, and purpose of the Constitution….There’s an interdisciplinary approach. This isn’t just for history students or students taking history.”

Tell me about some of the programs and how they tie into the larger themes of the Lincoln Exhibit and modern society:

“Professor Carl Colavito partnered with me and his student philosophy club, and they actually hosted three different programs about Lincoln. One was The Wisdom of Lincoln, another focused on states’ rights and what that meant at the time, and what it tends to mean now when we talk about it. So there were several opportunities there.

We also had a very interesting program with Rodney Hurst, based on his book called ‘It Was Never About a Hotdog and a Coke.’ This gave students a chance to learn about Ax Handle Saturday. His book has really become the history of that event here in Jacksonville. It goes to show how far Jacksonville has come…we’ve made a lot of strides since that time, but it’s good to know the full history, and that that was a huge piece of it. We have to be able to talk about it to move past so that we can move forward, and make strides, and make improvement, and make positive change…but if you don’t know your history, you really can’t make productive change.

And then there were other related events that were presented that were not on the official Lincoln schedule, but people were inspired to present additional kinds of things…I think there was a TEDx at Deerwood that focused on human trafficking. It wasn’t part of the Lincoln lineup necessarily, but it certainly was related to the programming.”

How did the exhibit deal with modern forms of slavery like human trafficking?

I had partnerships from Student Life and Leadership who actually took on the Human Trafficking theme, and that really relates to the fact that, of course, Lincoln had to deal with slavery….so this [human trafficking] is a carryover from that in a lot of ways.

Within that theme, it gave Student Life and Leadership a chance to do some focused programming on that particular topic–that’s a goal for their program as well–and also lend itself to a partnership with the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition. One of the results of that partnership was a joint hosting of their student art show, where students actually submitted art that talked about the theme of human trafficking from their eyes.

These are unresolved issues that tend to play out in more contemporary ways now, but the basic principles, in some cases, have not really changed, so we have to deal with these things, and make people aware that this is a current problem. We still have miles to go on this issue.”


 

Overall, the Lincoln Exhibit has had a transformative effect on areas within FSCJ and the city at large. Thanks to collaborative programming hosted across the entirety of FSCJ in art galleries, libraries, lecture halls and The Wilson Center for the Arts (now designated as a Northeast Florida Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education), new partnerships are emerging between the college and several regional groups.

From crucial discussions on race in Jacksonville to presentations by the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition (NEFHCS) to the screening of the film “From Swastika to Jim Crow,” positive aftershocks from the Lincoln Exhibit are sure to reverberate throughout the community for a long time to come.

 

For a program list, explore this pdf.

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