VMFASP_140817_001
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Signs of Protest: Photographs from the Civil Rights Era

"Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968

Signs and protests were inseparable in the 1960s, with words painted or printed large scale to produce maximum impact when photographed or filmed by the media. Like a visual bullhorn, they both amplified and unified the voices fighting injustice. This exhibition includes photographs of those signs and the individuals who carried them, as well as images of the larger culture of resistance during the turbulent decade. With an emphasis on civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael, Signs of Protest traces the evolution of protest from civil rights and black power to Vietnam War demonstrations and, in subsequent decades, rallies fighting South African aparthied.

Many of the photographs on view here, including Gordon Parks, Bob Adelman, and James Karales, worked for magazines such as Life and Look, whose photo essays reached millions of American readers every week. They understood that the photographs they took had the capability to effect real change. Gordon Parks called his camera a weapon, an apt reference to the power of images in the fight for racial justice and equality.
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