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(top) Gandhi spinning. Location unknown. Late 1920's; Women prisoners at Ravensbrück, a World War II concentration camp north of Berlin. (left) Rosa Parks (with Martin Luther King). 1955.


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FACING OUR HUMANITY

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Mahatma Gandhi was a great spiritual and political leader in India during the twentieth century. At the forefront of the Indian struggle for independence from Great Britain, he advocated resistance to tyranny through nonviolent noncompliance. His life and philosophy were an inspiration for civil rights movements around the world.

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The image above dates from the 1940's and documents women prisoners at Ravensbrück, a World War II concentration camp north of Berlin. During the war over 130,000 women were held at the camp. The largest ethnic group was Polish. Prisoners were subjected to forced labor and nonconsensual medical testing. There are reports of resistance which included secret educational programs led by experienced prisoner-teachers and the creation of personal artifacts like jewelry, small dolls and books. There is a major collection of surviving works on exhibition at Lund University Library, Sweden ("Voices from Ravensbrück"). Conditions in the camp, acceptable at the commencement of the camp's operation, deteriorated and by the end of the war there were only 15,000 survivors. Prison personnel, recognizing the end of the war and liberation, forced most of the prison population into a death march, hoping to kill witnesses who could testify to the camp's activites.

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In 1955 Rosa Parks (pictured with Dr. Martin Luther King) was an Alabama seamstress who refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger. She was subsequently arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance. Most historians designate Ms. Parks' act of noncompliance as the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

 

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