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Politics

‘1971’: How Faces In The Trees Trace NC Women’s Fight For Voting Rights

A face superimposed onto a park scene.
Courtesy of Craig Walsh
Australian projection artist Craig Walsh

It took North Carolina more than 40 years to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. The new art installation “1971” commemorates three North Carolina women who contributed to expanding voting rights in the state: Mary Jones Phillips, Mae McLendon and Diane Robertson.

Their names are not well known, and this is precisely why they were chosen to be featured. Carolina Performing Arts commissioned celebrated Australian projection artist Craig Walsh to honor these quiet heroes with large-scale projections on view projections on view in Chapel Hill this month. Host Frank Stasio talks with Phillips, who was  involved in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter of the NAACP and active with her sorority Delta Sigma Theta, but never thought to fight for voting rights until North Carolina’s voter ID laws changed in 2013. She shares her story of how she helped mobilize youth and women to vote. Gloria Thomas, director of the Carolina Women’s Center, joins the conversation to talk about the collaboration between her organization and Carolina Performing Arts and Southern Oral History Program to choose the subjects and curate their stories for the project. “1971” is on view at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Polk Place through Sept. 17 and the Chapel Hill Public Library from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29.

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