The Brooklyn Museum Commemorates the Civil Rights Act’s 50th Anniversary

By Kevin Adu

Fifty years ago, history was made when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, officially outlawing discrimination based on race, color, sex, or creed in America.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of this momentous occasion, the Brooklyn Museum has captured its historical significance in a more artistic from.

On March 7th, the Brooklyn Museum unveiled its newest exhibit, “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties”. This colorful, imaginative, and riveting exhibition features hundreds of vivid paintings, intriguing sculptures and iconic photography of the era’s political and social transformations.

The sixty-six selected artists and their work, through various techniques and mediums, depict the social and political defiance and disobedience that marked the era.

The selection ranges from well-known painters, such as Norman Rockwell and his “New Kids in the Neighborhood,” to lesser-known artists such as John T. Riddle Jr. and his “The Ghetto Merchant.”

The new exhibit does not fail to emphasize many aspects that made the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties so universal and memorable.

Many of the art pieces cover the global implications of the fight for equal rights and for women as well.

Emma Amos, an African-American painter, captures the beliefs of sisterhood in many of her works, including “Three Figures” and “Godzilla,” using stark depictions to expose the inequality felt by African-American women.

Along with the civil rights movement, the exhibition illuminates viewers on the progression of art. Many different art movements can be seen by viewers as they walk through the exhibit, from geometric abstraction and assemblism to pop and photography.

Gordon Parks definitely capitalized on the last of the aforementioned art forms, as she captured many iconic individuals, including Muhammad Ali, the professional boxer, and Eldridge Cleaver, the leader of the Black Panther Party.

Adding to the experience, visitors also listen to songs, like “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “The Times They Are A-Changin,” which play softly throughout the exhibit. Also, the exhibit includes a video projection of Nina Simone, American singer, songwriter, and pianist, as she plays “Mississippi Goddam.”

The exhibition will be on display until July 6, after which it will begin a national tour.

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