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For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights examines the role that visual culture played in shaping and transforming the struggle for racial equality in America from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s.
In September 1955, shortly after 14-year old Emmett Till was murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi, his grieving mother, Mamie Till Bradley, distributed to newspapers and magazines a gruesome black-and-white photograph of his mutilated corpse. The mainstream media rejected the photograph as inappropriate for publication, but Bradley was able to turn to African-American periodicals for support. Asked why she would do this, Bradley explained that by witnessing, with their own eyes, the brutality of segregation, Americans would be more likely to support the cause of civil rights.
Through a compelling assortment of photographs, television clips, art posters, and other historic artifacts, For All the World to See traces how images and media disseminated to the American public transformed the modern civil rights movement and jolted Americans, both black and white, out of a state of denial or complacency.
Visitors to this immersive exhibition will explore more than 35 compelling and persuasive visual images, including photographs from influential magazines, such as LIFE, JET, and EBONY; CBS news footage; and TV clips from The Ed Sullivan Show.
Also included are civil rights-era objects that exemplify the range of negative and positive imagery—from Aunt Jemima syrup dispensers and 1930s produce advertisements to Jackie Robinson baseball ephemera and 1960s children’s toys with “ethnically correct” features.
For All the World to See is curated by Dr. Maurice Berger, Research Professor, The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore. It is co-organized by The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.