Mayfield's 1965 composition conveyed a message when the nation was in the throes of the civil rights upheaval. The lyrics captured the yearnings of a people -- African-Americans or Negroes and coloreds, as they were labeled then -- who longed for a better life. And like Negro spirituals and some gospel music, the lyrics held out hope that one day things would change for the better.
Things did improve, and the exhibition, which opened a week ago, acknowledges the difficulties encountered along the way with 35 works of art and photographs selected from the museum's collection by
A museum donor brought to the institution's attention that 2014 marks 50 years since the signing of the law that
"I am limited by the collection at the
Photographs, woodblock etchings, prints, and other work by such notables as
Photos from Withers' portfolio I Am A Man suggest that he was often in the right place at the right time, as he was often present during noteworthy civil rights events, including the Rev.
These works are bound to jar the memories of those who lived through those times. Some will recall seeing images of Reverend King and Malcolm X on black-and-white television screens in consoles that served as pieces of furniture in family living rooms. The exhibition also will educate younger generations and help them to understand that the liberties they enjoy now were not available to their forebearers, but that prejudice and bigotry were far more overt and kept their parents and grandparents in subpar public facilities, restaurants, and schools.
The exhibition is small but powerful, clearly showing that change is possible. In the half century since the 1964 civil rights bill became law, doors have opened on numerous levels for African-Americans to fully participate in a democracy that by many standards is still in its infancy.
The story is not complete. Visitors to the exhibition can have their own say about how far they believe the nation has come and what it has yet to accomplish. The museum encourage visitors to write those views as part of the exhibit, perspectives bound to make for compelling reading.
(c)2014 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
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