Irving—The I AM A MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960–1970exhibit opens a window on the past in the first floor of the Irving Archives and Museum through March 16.
“This traveling exhibition has been adapted from an exhibition originally produced for the Pavillon Populaire in Montpellier, France, by the Center for Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” Clare Hulfish, education and program manager for the Irving Archives & Museum (IAM), said. “Southern folklorist, author, and curator, William Ferris, and his research team sought out photos taken in the heat of the civil rights movement by activists or local news photographers who documented history taking place before their eyes.
“The exhibition takes its name, “I AM A MAN,” from the slogan of the sanitation workers’strike Martin Luther King, Jr., was supposed to lead the day after he was assassinated 50 years ago. Dr. King and other civil rights leaders relied on the power of photographs to persuade and to motivate change during the civil rights movement.
“I AM A MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960–1970 displays a wide range of photographs taken by amateurs, local photojournalists, and internationally known photographers. Together, they provide a vivid visual story of the evolution of the civil rights movement and shed light on the movement’s integration in the daily living in the American South.
“Within the history of photography, images of the civil rights’ movement mark a special body of work,” Hulfish said.“These photographs bear witness to the region’s past, to its people, and to the places that shaped their lives. The photographs featured in the exhibition convey the truth of the era, showing the courage of protesters who faced unimaginable violence and brutality with the quiet determination of elders and the angry commitment of the young.
“Viewers of the exhibition will recognize the photographs of protesters who carried signs with messages like “I Am A Man” or sat at segregated lunch counters as iconic images associated with the movement. Other photographs presented in the exhibition have rarely been seen until now. Key events include James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi, Ku Klux Klan gatherings, the Selma Montgomery March in Alabama, the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Martin Luther King’s funeral, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Mule Train.”
Hulfish said these photographs are an excellent tool for educating visitors on the Civil Rights Movement and can help people understand the issues we face today.
“These photographs were taken fifty yearsago, but remain relevant today,”Hulfish said. “They remind us of the brave sacrifices that were made to secure the enforcement of civil rights for African Americans. The decade was a pivotal moment that both marks change, and also reminds us how far we have to go.
“The photographs in I Am A Man: Civil Rights Photographs in the American South, 1960–1970 remind us of their enduring resonance today and beyond as future generations continue to fight for justice for all humankind.”
According to Hulfish the exhibit has been a great success. She even mentioned how one particular visitor was moved by their experience viewing the photographs.
“We are thrilled to have this exhibition at IAM to share with the community. A visitor reflecting on the exhibit stated,’It is beautiful to see the power and spirit my ancestors had. No matter how hard they were pushed to stop they persevered. They were determined to make a change. We are such strong people with even stronger history and spirit.’ I loved seeing that shown through the exhibit,” Hulfish said.
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