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The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

This light of ours: activist photographers of the civil rights movement

Repository: Center for Documentary Arts

Collection Description (CRHP): In addition, a book of the same title will be available in 2011 from the University of Mississippi Press.

Collection Description (Extant): The Center for Documentary Arts is pleased to present This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, a major, new, traveling exhibition that depicts the Africa-American freedom struggle through the visions and voices of nine men and women who lived and worked in the South between 1963-1968.

The exhibition will premier in Salt Lake City at The Leonardo, a new art, science, and technology center in Salt Lake City, Utah in the summer of 2011 and will remain open to the general public for six months. In 2012, the exhibit will begin a five-year long national tour.

This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement is a paradigm-shifting exhibition that presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work and voices of nine activist photographers—men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement.

Unlike images produced by photojournalists, who covered breaking news events for major magazines and newspapers, these photographers lived within the movement—primarily within the SNCC framework—and documented its activities by focusing on the local people and student activists who together made it happen. Their photographs, combined with an exhibit narrative that provides context and chronology, will convey SNCC’s distinctive yet little known “bottom-up” community organizing strategy as well as its organizational development. As historian Charles Payne explains, understanding this strategy offers a “different sense” of the southern freedom struggle by providing “a greater emphasis on the long-term development of leadership in ordinary men and women.”

The core of the exhibition is a selection of 156 black-and white photographs, representing the combined work of photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, and Tamio Wakayama. The images are grouped around four major themes and are supported by didactic text, photo captions, and a selection of movement artifacts that together convey SNCC’s organizational development, impact on the national consciousness, and usage of images to present critical messages.

In addition, photographers’ eye-witness accounts of life inside SNCC—their descriptions of how and why photographs were taken, what impact images had, and their personal revelations of the movement’s impact on their own lives—will be incorporated into audio guides prepared for adults and children. The audio guides will be presented, in large part, through the voices of the photographers, and will personalize the movement, allowing visitors to better understand how activists were affected by their contributions to a nonviolent quest for social justice that transformed American life.

A thirty-minute exhibit film, directed by award winning KUED-TV filmmaker Nancy Green, also is planned. The film is designed to explore, chronicle, and preserve the experiences of men and women from Utah who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. This film will complement a major PBS release that is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, and will be incorporated into the exhibit as a concluding presentation only at The Leonardo venue.

Collection URL: http://www.cdautah.org/human-rights-gallery/this-light-of-ours External Link

Date(s): 2011

Language: English

Interviewees: Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, Tamio Wakayama

Rights (Extant): Contact the repository which holds the collection for more information on rights.

Subjects:

Civil rights movements--Mississippi
Civil rights workers--Mississippi
Mississippi Freedom Project
Mississippi Freedom Schools
Photographers
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)

Genres:

Interviews
Photographs
Sound recordings

 

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   January 5, 2015
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