The Civil Rights Movement Through the Lens of Julius Lester
Department:WWS Office of Public Affairs and Communications
Audience:Open to the Public
A photo exhibit by Julius Lester, “The Black South in the Sixties,” will open to the public in the Bernstein Gallery from April 14 through May 18.
A complementing panel discussion and reception will be held Wednesday, April 20, 4:30 p.m., in Bowl 016 beside the gallery. It will be moderated by Stanley N. Katz, lecturer with the rank of professor in public and international affairs, along with Nell Painter, historian and artist, and Edwards Professor of American History, Emeritus. Julius Lester will participate in the panel discussion via Skype.
Lester photographed major portions of the black South and the civil rights movement from 1964 to 1968, when he was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
“Influenced by Walker Evans and the photographers of the Farm Security Administration, I set out to document the South as it entered a period of profound change,” he wrote. “The ideal of freedom that was so fervently believed in was liberation from the obscenity of white racial superiority, and whites needed to be liberated from that as much, if not more, than blacks.”
This exhibition draws from the poignant images of black people and their surroundings that he shot in his capacity as photographer for SNCC.
The exhibition includes a set of Lester’s portraits of young civil rights workers of that era, both famous and less well-known. There are pictures of John Lewis, Julian Bond and Stokely Carmichael, as well as Fannie Lou Hamer, “the heart and soul of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.” And others “whose names never made the newspapers…But they transformed this country by how they lived their lives, by how they risked their lives.”
About the Artist
Julius Lester, a veteran of the civil rights movement, is the author of 47 books for children and adults. His books have received numerous awards, including the Newbery Honor Medal, Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the Coretta Scott King Award. He has recorded two albums of traditional Black folk music as well as original songs. He was on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for 32 years and was the only faculty member who taught courses in four separate departments — Afro-American Studies, English, History, and Judaic Studies. He was a recipient of that school’s Distinguished Teaching Award as well as the University’s highest honor, the Chancellor’s medal. He also is a digital artist and photographer whose works have been shown at the Smithsonian Institute, Schomberg Center for Black Culture and the Howard Greenberg Gallery.