Throughout this summer the Federal Building in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will be hosting “Atomic Integration,” a photography exhibition focusing on African-American life, experiences, and contributions during the Manhattan Project-era in Oak Ridge. The lobby of the Federal Building is open to the public.
The contributions of African Americans are too often left out of accounts of the United States race to build the world’s first atomic bombs during World War II. Despite facing severe discrimination, they were instrumental in the success of the Manhattan Project and its world-changing mission.
The photographs in the exhibit were taken by James Edward Westcott, a renowned photographer who worked for the U.S. government in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Westcott was one of the few people permitted to have a camera in Oak Ridge government facilities during the Manhattan Project.
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (LM) and the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) co-manage the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the exhibit is a great example of collaboration between two organizations, as well as with their community partners. NPS, DOE, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, and the city’s convention and visitors bureau (Explore Oak Ridge) sponsored the exhibit. NPS and DOE Oak Ridge Office employees were instrumental in developing the exhibit.
This past February, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce hosted the exhibit in honor of African American History Month. After its run at the Federal Building, the exhibit will be hosted by Scarboro Community, a historically African-American community in the Oak Ridge area.