Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

John F. Kvach


George C. Marshall Space Flight Center--History., United States.--National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Civil rights movements--Alabama--Huntsville--History--20th century., African Americans--Civil rights--Alabama., Huntsville (Ala.)--Race relations, Alabama--Race relations.


Huntsville, Alabama saw dramatic changes throughout the 1950s and 1960s with the development of a federal military installation and NASA space center within its city limits, bringing millions of federal dollars and tens of thousands of highly educated residents to the northern Alabama city. This growth set the stage for a highly motivated group of grassroots civil rights organizers whose persistence would make Huntsville the first in the state of Alabama to integrate its public facilities, businesses, public schools, and universities. Despite the hardships inherent to civil rights activism in Governor George Wallace’s Alabama, the locally-organized Community Service Committee targeted the city’s precious federal dollars in pushing for compromise with Huntsville’s white leadership and business community. The work of these community volunteers ensured the city’s legacy as a social and technological leader within the state. This research resulted in a museum exhibit on Huntsville’s civil rights movement. The exhibit, titled “This is Rocket City, U.S.A., Let Freedom Begin Here: The Civil Rights Movement in Huntsville, Alabama,” was displayed in February and March of 2014 at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville. Coinciding with many fiftieth anniversary celebrations of these local civil rights milestones, “This is Rocket City, U.S.A.” brought the compelling and unique story of the civil rights movement in Huntsville to a broader audience than ever before. Combining historical research with oral history recordings, original artifacts, primary source documents, and striking visuals, the exhibit introduced museum visitors to the factors influencing the course of the movement in Huntsville and encouraged them to consider the relevance of this history to the continued struggles for racial equality within our city and state.



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