David Crane, a history instructor at Alamance Community College, is busy with outside projects that correlate to what he teaches his students about the Civil Rights Movement.
Last May, Crane signed a contract with Princeton Architectural Press (PAP) to publish his book, Making the Movement: Material Culture of the Civil Rights Movement. The book is a historical monograph and the first to focus on the material culture of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I am still working with my editor, but should be putting the finishing touches on it within a matter of weeks, with a release date of early fall 2022,” said Crane.
His first book, Become As One People: Colonial Identifications for Native Americans in the Carolinas, 1540-1790, was published in 2011. As a result of that work, Crane was invited by Bedford St. Martin’s publishing house in Boston to be a contributor for a textbook titled Freedom on My Mind, Combined Volume: A History of African Americans with Documents.
This past summer, Crane’s exhibition Making the Movement: Civil Rights Museum (www.makingthemovement.com), which originally debuted at the Robert H. Jackson Center in New York in 2013, found an audience in Nashville, Tennessee in July at the American Political Item Collectors (APIC) National Convention.
Crane appeared at the convention as an exhibitor and speaker for a seminar called “Collecting Civil Rights Movement Items.” His Museum consists of hundreds of artifacts from the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation through the Black Lives Matter Movement. He even owns a stool from the lunch counter of the Woolworth’s in Charlotte, where Black students conducted a sit-in in 1960.
Growing up an ‘army brat’, Crane spent his formative years in Germany and Washington D.C. before settling as a teen in North Carolina. Helping him look at history and current events through a unique lens was Crane’s father, David M. Crane, who taught law at Syracuse University and served as an international prosecutor in war crimes trials.
Crane’s love of history developed while in college, leading to bachelor degrees in Political Science and History and a master’s degree in history at UNC Wilmington.
Ultimately, his interest in the 1863-2021 Civil Rights Movement grew as he accumulated items by searching on EBay, political collectible websites, and haunting antique shops.
“These objects are not memorabilia,” said Crane. “That is the whole point of Making the Movement, that these were not souvenirs, but instead the nonviolent weapons of the Civil Rights Movement.”
And why are these items so significant to the Movement? Said Crane: “The sale of these objects helped those in the struggle for civil rights to achieve their objectives. The sale of the lapel pins collected money but also served as awareness for the ongoing struggle. Everybody brought the pins home from the March on Washington in 1963 and kept them. They told their friends where they’d been, and the movement grew.”
Crane said these material culture items kept the movement going. That’s why he titled his exhibit Making the Movement: Civil Rights Museum.
“These items are a neglected area and I want to make sure they receive the attention they deserve,” he said.