Woody Guthrie is an example of how a person can come from a small isolated community and expand their world-view to a point that they are ready and willing to take action towards the betterment of society as whole. Woody was brought up in a small isolated community in Okehma, Oklahoma, and from there moved to Pampa, Texas. Because his childhood community was isolated, his perspective and world-view were colored by his peers and family in a distinct way that fit with their social paradigm. In later years Woody became more aware that his viewpoints were colored by his personal environment, and he worked to expand his worldview and knowledge, eventually seeing the undercurrents that shape society.
Woody was unusual in that he took it a step further. He went on to use his life and his life’s work to fight for civil rights and social justice. Woody serves as an example of how we as human-beings are often shaped by those around us, but that doesn’t stop us from learning to think for ourselves and eventually using our talents to help shape the larger world into a better place. Most people follow the crowd, still others are aware of problems but because of their circumstances do nothing. When people stand up and fight they become legend, and they become heroes. Woody Guthrie “stepped it up.” He turned up the heat on injustice. Hopefully, we will find our own abilities and shine in the same way.
In the Center we try to focus on having at least one exhibit that highlights social justice in some way. We usually have multiple exhibits. Currently, we have one featuring Woody’s involvement with the Peekskill Riots in New York and his trip to Beluthahatchee, Florida to help his friend, Stetson Kennedy, who was then a victim of racial prejudice. It is important that we discuss these things in the open as a community, and we try to do our part in highlighting Woody’s contributions.