Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

25 Jan

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement: An Exhibit at the Film & Media Archive

January – May, 2013

The Film & Media Archive presents an exhibition on photography and the civil rights movement. Featuring images and books from photographers who helped document the dramatic moments in the movement including Danny LyonJames KaralesCharles Moore, Leonard Freed, and Bruce Davidson.

The media coverage both in photographs and television news footage of the resistance and brutality against activists had an undeniable impact on the general public and helped turn the tide in favor of the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book Why We Can’t Wait, “The brutality with which officials would have quelled the black individual became impotent when it could not be pursued with stealth and remain unobserved. It was caught—as a fugitive from a penitentiary is often caught—in gigantic circling spotlights. It was imprisoned in a luminous glare revealing the naked truth to the whole world.”

Henry Hampton’s documentary series Eyes on the Prize began with the story of Emmett Till’s murder. Up until Till’s murder, every year there were disappearances and unprosecuted murders and lynchings of African-Americans. The shock of the Till case was amplified by his mother’s decision to allow a photograph of his battered and mutilated body be published in Jet magazine. Of course, violent acts had occurred for many years before the 1950s, what was different was the revealing of these images in the mainstream media.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

During the Birmingham campaign the violent response to citizens’ right to protest was documented by photographer Charles Moore, Bruce Davidson, and many other major news networks. The startling images of ordinary citizens, men, women, and children being attacked with dogs and water cannons made the front page in many newspapers around the world. Charles Moore later said, “Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.”

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Another moment which was captured on film and photograph was the Selma to Montgomery March. The iconic image of the march captured by James Karales was used in the promotional and cover art of Eyes on the Prize.

The exhibit will run from January – May, 2013, and can be viewed at the at the Film & Media Archive, Monday – Friday – 8:30-5:00 p.m.

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