from the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
This photograph was originally published in a groundbreaking Life Magazine photo essay by Gordon Parks, which exposed Americans to the effects of racial segregation. Parks focused his attention on a multigenerational family from Alabama. His photographs captured the Thornton family’s everyday struggles to overcome discrimination.
Gordon Parks's choice of subject matter sets his series of photographs of a family living under segregation in 1956 Alabama apart from others of the period. Rather than focusing on the demonstrations, boycotts, and brutality that characterized the battle for racial justice, Parks emphasized the prosaic details of one family’s life. His ability to elicit empathy through an emphasis on intimacy and shared human experience made them especially poignant.
One of the most iconic images of the civil rights era, this photograph shows 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford walking alone in front of Little Rock High School while being taunted by a menacing, hateful mob. Eckford was alone because she failed to receive notification that the date for desegregating the school had been postponed by a day.
Builder Levy frequently focuses on social issues, reflecting his personal commitment to causes he has embraced during his thirty-five year tenure as a teacher of at-risk adolescents in a New York inner-city school. This image documents one of the many historic marches on Washington, D.C., that took place during the civil rights era.
The man seen here pouring cleaning agents into a swimming pool occupied by men and women engaging in a “swim-in”, is James Brock, manager of the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida. Like most other white business owners, he banned blacks from his establishment. While the protestors floated in a pool of chemicals, off-duty policemen dove in and arrested them.
Dr. King and his fellow Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) leader Ralph Abernathy led a ten-person contingent to the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida, in June 1964. King engaged the owner, James Brock, in a discussion that grew long and heated. King explained the kinds of humiliations blacks endured daily, to which Brock replied – smiling into the television cameras – “I would like to invite my many friends throughout the country to come to Monson’s. We expect to remain segregated.” The police arrived to arrest King and his group. They were held without bail in St. John’s County jail for several days.
The Ku Klux Klan was picketing a newly desegregated hotel a few doors down from a segregated restaurant where a group of young civil rights workers were protesting. The lettering on a sign held by one of the young demonstrators, bearing the slogan “Atlanta’s Image is a Fraud”, has been enhanced by newsroom staff, presumably to read more effectively in newspaper print. Reflected in reverse in the storefront window behind the protestors is the signage for a Cary Grant movie being screened in a theater across the street.
Larry Fink, best known for his portraits of high society reproduced in magazines such as Vanity Fair, was also very engaged with the civil rights cause. He was on hand in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1968 – a month after Dr. King’s assassination - to photograph Coretta Scott King’s arrival at Resurrection City. Fink skillfully framed Mrs. King’s face in the doorjamb of the car, as she is greeted by Fred Bennette, a member of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).