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One of the most significant exhibitions devoted to photography of the civil rights movement will be presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture from Nov. 8 through March 9, 2009, at the International Gallery of the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968” will include nearly 200 photographs—many of which had never been seen until this exhibition premiered at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in June.
Coinciding with “Road to Freedom” will be the exhibition, “After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy.” This exhibition will include recent and newly commissioned works of art by a group of young, influential, emerging artists and collectives. The artists, born after 1968, have inherited a legacy that uniquely shapes their distinct worldview.
“Road to Freedom” will include unforgettable images that helped change the nation, increasing the momentum of the nonviolent movement by dramatically raising awareness of injustice and the struggle for equality. The exhibition draws primarily from the permanent collection of the High Museum of Art, which contains one of the most comprehensive holdings of Civil Rights-era photography in the nation.
“Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968” is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. It is presented in Washington by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibition is supported by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
The exhibition is organized by Julian Cox, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art. The National Museum of African American History and Culture and its director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, Deputy Director Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Chief Curator Jacquelyn Serwer provided intellectual and logistical support during the planning and publication stages of “Road to Freedom.”
Covering a 12-year period between the Rosa Parks’ incident in 1955-56 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, “Road to Freedom” will follow key events such as the Freedom Rides of 1961, the Birmingham hosings of 1963 and the Selma-Montgomery march of 1965. The exhibition will feature work by nearly 50 photographers, with recognized names such as Bob Adelman, Morton Broffman, Bruce Davidson, Doris Derby, James Karales, Builder Levy, Steve Schapiro and Ernest Withers. Also included will be the work of press photographers and amateurs who made stirring visual documents of marches, demonstrations and public gatherings out of a conviction for the social changes that the movement represented. Key images will include Adelman’s “Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham,” 1963; Broffman’s “Dr. King and Coretta Scott King Leading Marchers, Montgomery, Alabama,” 1965; Bill Eppridge’s “Chaney Family as They Depart for the Funeral of James Chaney, Philadelphia, Mississippi,” 1964; Levy’s “I Am a Man/Union Justice Now, Memphis, Tennessee,” 1968; and Robert Sengstacke’s “Marchers, Selma to Montgomery March, Alabama, 1965.”
Among the works included in “Road to Freedom” is a group of 33 vintage photographs by Washington, D.C.-based freelance photographer Broffman. In addition to working for several major publications, Broffman was the photographer for Cathedral Age, the magazine of the Washington National Cathedral, for more than 25 years until his death in 1992. He was a campaign photographer for Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who ran for president in 1968, and took numerous photographs of the civil rights gatherings in Washington as well as in Selma and Montgomery, Ala. His body of work includes images of marchers and movement leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rep. John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Joan Baez and James Baldwin.
Coinciding with “Road to Freedom” is the exhibition, “After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy.” This exhibition of contemporary art organized by the High Museum will include works by artists such as Hank Willis Thomas, Deborah Grant, Leslie Hewitt, Otabenga Jones, Adam Pendleton, Nadine Robinson and Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Pinder. It will feature photographs, digital video, prints and site-specific installations.
“After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy” is organized by the High Museum of Art. It is presented in Washington by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an Act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, art, history and culture. The Smithsonian Board of Regents, the governing body of the Institution, voted in January 2006 to build the museum on a five-acre site on the National Mall. The Constitution Avenue site is adjacent to the Washington Monument and across the street from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. For more information about the museum, please visit www.nmaahc.si.edu or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).
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