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Exhibition of Photographs from the Struggle for Civil Rights Opens at ICP
Ernest C. Withers, Sanitation Workers Assemble in Front of Clayborn Temple for a Solidarity March, Memphis, TN, March 28, 1968 © Ernest C. Withers, Courtesy Panopticon Gallery, Boston, MA, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
NEW YORK, NY.- A new exhibition at the International Center of Photography offers an innovative view of the Civil Rights Movement and the catalytic social role played by changing portrayals of African Americans in the 1950s and ‘60s. Through a rich juxtaposition of visual images—including photographs, television and film clips, magazines, newspapers, books, pamphlets and posters—the exhibition shows how strategic interventions in these mediums of visual culture helped to transform prevailing attitudes toward race in America. The exhibition, organized by guest curator Maurice Berger, is titled For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, and will be on view through September 12, 2010.

The exhibition demonstrates the extent to which the rise of the modern civil rights movement paralleled the birth of television and the popularity of picture magazines and other forms of visual mass media, and traces the gradual introduction of African American faces into those contexts. These images were ever-present and diverse: the startling footage of southern white aggression and black suffering that appeared night after night on television news programs; the photographs of achievers and martyrs in black periodicals, which roused pride or activism in the African American community; the humble snapshot, no less powerful in its ability to edify and motivate.

Efforts to combat racism and segregation were waged not only with fiery speeches and nonviolent protests but also, significantly, with pictures, forever changing the way political movements fought for visibility and recognition. Nonetheless, the role of visual media in combating racism is rarely included in standard histories of the movement. For All the World to See will include approximately 230 objects and television and film clips, ranging from the late-1940s to the mid-1970s. The exhibition is divided into five sections: It Keeps on Rollin’ Along: The Status Quo looks at the world of visual culture into which the modern civil rights movement was born and the power of these images to perpetuate stereotypes, prejudice, and complacency. The Culture of Positive Images investigates the role of images in fostering a sense of black pride and accomplishment as well as improving the habitually negative view of African Americans in the culture at large. “Let the World See What I’ve Seen”: Evidence and Persuasion considers the use of pictures to report, document, or offer proof, depictions powerful enough to alter public opinion, perceptions, or attitudes about race in America. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Broadcasting Race examines the role of entertainment television in supporting black performers and exploring controversial racial issues. In Our Lives We Are Whole: Snapshots of Everyday Life, 1935–1975 studies the roles played by the visual artifacts of daily life—from family snapshots to the visual campaign of the Black Panther Party—in emboldening black pride, maintaining the status quo, or countering mainstream values and points of view.

Exhibition highlights include: materials relating to the Emmett Till case, such as a rare pamphlet by the photographer Ernest C. Withers recounting the murder and its aftermath; historic footage of Jackie Robinson’s first game in the major leagues and other sports memorabilia; an examination of the Negro pictorial magazine, from the widely-read (Ebony, Jet, and Tan) to the short-lived (Hue, Say, and Sepia); photographs documenting the civil rights movement and its leaders by Roy DeCarava, Elliot Erwitt, Benedict Fernandez, Joseph Louw, Francis Miller, Gordon Parks, Robert Sengstack, Moneta Sleet, Carl Van Vechten, and Dan Weiner; clips from groundbreaking television documentaries, most not seen in decades, such as The Weapons of Gordon Parks, Ku Klux Klan: The Invisible Empire, and Take This Hammer; and excerpts from nationally broadcast (The Beulah Show, East Side, West Side, All in the Family, and The Ed Sullivan Show) and local African American TV programs (Soul, Say Brother, and Colored People’s Time). For All the World to See looks at images from a range of cultural outlets and formats, tracking the ways they represented race in order to alter beliefs and attitudes.

International Center of Photography | Maurice Berger | "For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights" |




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