200 Alabama Bicentennial

Celebrating Alabama’s 200th birthday2017 2018 2019

Alabama Justice: The Cases and Faces That Changed a Nation, an exhibition on Alabama’s contributions to American constitutional law, will make its inaugural appearance at Auburn University Libraries’ Ralph Brown Draughon Library beginning January 11 and remaining until February 7, 2019. The exhibit, housed on the first floor, will be open to the public during all regular library hours. An accompanying display of books on the cases, justices, and the U.S. Supreme Court will be on the library’s second floor.

The interactive exhibit, developed in part for Alabama’s bicentennial celebration, outlines eight of the most important cases to go before the Supreme Court. The cases, all of which originated in Alabama, include the Scottsboro Boys case, New York Times v. Sullivan and Gomillion v. Lightfoot. Each case led to landmark rulings that established or enhanced fundamental rights and continue to guide our understanding of American law.

The exhibit presents each case by issue, the arguments made before the justices and the Supreme Court’s ruling. Digital interactive components enable viewers to scroll through the historical background and legal precedents for each case, hear portions of the actual oral arguments and read more about the rulings and their effect on law and on every American. Additional panels include information about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as profiles of Alabama’s three Supreme Court justices.

The cases are part of state history, but they have national significance. As Dr. Steven P. Brown, professor of Political Science at Auburn University and project scholar-consultant, has noted, these cases “are important because of the rights and liberties the Court recognized or established in them that apply to all Americans.”

What can viewers take away from the exhibit? At least three things, notes Brown: “First, an appreciation for the ordinary people who made the deliberate decision to challenge governmental action that they believed was unconstitutional. Second, an appreciation for the rights and liberties they are able to enjoy now because of what others – regular people, lawyers and Supreme Court justices – did. And third, a desire to learn more about those rights and liberties and a commitment to preserve them for later generations.” 

The exhibit, developed by Brown and Backstory Educational Media, is sponsored by ALABAMA 200, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Alabama Humanities Foundation and Auburn University, with support from the Alabama Bench and Bar Historical Society. After its debut at Ralph Brown Draughon Library, it will travel to selected sites around the state through 2020.