As relevant today as they were half a century ago, more than 150 black-and-white images chronicling the Southern Freedom Movement are featured in This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, on view September 29, 2016 through May 14, 2017, at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Road, Beachwood, OH 44122; 216.593.0575; maltzmuseum.org). The 4,000-square-foot exhibition is generously sponsored by Cleveland Browns Foundation; Cleveland Foundation, Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Humanities Center at Cuyahoga Community College; Maltz Family Foundation; PNC Bank and The Treu-Mart Fund.
This Light of Ours features works by nine activist photographers who documented the clash between institutionalized discrimination and determined resistance by activists and volunteers. “The power of these photographs that helped catapult long-existing inequities into the national consciousness is undeniable,” asserts Maltz Museum executive director Ellen Rudolph. “Pain, fear and hope—the emotions and momentum fueling the movement—are palpable in the images.”
The Maltz Museum added videos, interactive features and material about racial division today. “This exhibition is very timely,” says Museum co-founder Milton Maltz, noting its relevance to recent shootings, riots, vigils and protests in Baltimore, Charleston, Cleveland, Dallas and Milwaukee. “Ordinary people risked everything to fight for equality in the segregated South of the 1960s. The question this exhibition asks is, 50 years later, who will take up the challenge to right inequities that continue to spark anger across this country? How can we heal this open wound of racial division in America?”
“As a museum of diversity and tolerance, depictions of everyday people who stood up for justice fits perfectly with our efforts to encourage individuals to understand and accept their roles in ending intolerance and indifference,” asserts the Museum’s education director Jeffery Allen. “It is as Cleveland’s own Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., a former regional director of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a Selma march participant once put it, ‘If there is no conscience in the community, we have to be that conscience.’”
Recognizing racial divisions weren’t relegated to the South, This Light of Ours also includes content related to Northeast Ohio’s own turmoil and triumphs at this critical moment in American history. “During this same decade Cleveland experienced the Hough riots of 1966, the long struggle to desegregate Cleveland’s public schools,” notes Allen. “The region also witnessed the 1967 election of Carl Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city and the groundbreaking role played by his brother, Louis, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Exhibition-related programming will be tied into community-wide commemorations of these milestones, examining their legacy in light of current events.”
This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement features photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela and Tamio Wakayams. The exhibition is organized by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art (Curator: Matt Herron; Historical Consultant: Charlie Cobb Jr.; Project Originators: Leslie Kelen and Steven Kasher) with major support provided by the Bruce W. Bastian Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The films, design and exhibition experience were conceived and produced by the Maltz Museum.
Additional sponsorship for the Cleveland installation is provided by Stanley Blum; Ruth G. and Sam H. Sampliner Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland; Catholic Diocese of Cleveland; Forest City Enterprises; Jewish Federation of Cleveland; Alan and Karen Krause; Audrey and Albert B. Ratner; David Reynolds, Key Private Bank; RPM, Inc.; Schwebel Baking Co.; and Dan and Ellen Zelman. Additional support comes from ADL Cleveland; Barry Feldman; Stewart and Donna Kohl; Noreen Koppelman-Goldstein and Barry Goloboff; Malik Law; Melamed Communications; Anne L. Meyers—
Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis; Abe and Barb Miller; The Nathan and Fannye Shafran Foundation; Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland; and Donna Yanowitz.
For information, directions and related programming, call 216.593.0575, or visit maltzmuseum.org.