Via The Hartford Courant
By SUSAN DUNNE, email@example.com
The show that opens Tuesday at The William Benton Museum of Art in Storrs has pictures of those people. But the real stars of "Making the Movement Move: Photography, Student Activism and Civil Rights" are the nameless activists in the trenches who marched, sat in, got arrested and were jailed.
"You see a much broader picture of the movement, with some events much more quiet and intimate," said Ally Johnson, curator of the exhibit. "The mainstream press typically got the more striking images, the fire hoses and the dog attacks, the aggressive images, but Danny Lyon got the calmer images, the meetings, the everyday activities."
Fifty photos by Lyon, on loan to UConn from alumni Sheldron and Helen Seplowitz of Stamford, are the core of the show, which also has 10 photos by Ernest Withers. Lyon was a staff photographer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Withers was a photographer for black newspapers.
The most haunting photo in the exhibit shows more than a dozen teenage girls who had been arrested for demonstrating in Americus, Ga., in 1963. They were held without charges in a jail outside Leesburg, without access to bedding, toilets or decent food.
"I am 13 years old and was in Leesburg stockade from August 31 to September 8," recalled one of them, Henrietta Fuller, whose quote is on an exhibit wall. "I urinated where the water from the shower drains down. Some of the girls used a piece of cardboard that came from the boxes, the cardboard boxes, that the hamburgers were brought in."
Lyon had to take the photo secretly, and it helped get the girls out of the jail.
Another young woman, whose name is lost to history, is seen clutching the bars of a police van after being arrested. Youths mill around outside a restaurant that barred them admittance, and other youths sit at a diner, not being served. In another photo, several white men stand behind a sign reading "Private Pool Members Only," while a line of black men tries unsuccessfully to enter. Protesters are seen being carried away by police, some passively, some fighting.
Another Lyon photo shows that the movement was not just black vs. white. The 1963 photo taken in Atlanta shows a white woman berating a crowd of white men who were kicking and harassing student demonstrators and burning them with cigarettes.
"She stepped into the midst of the mob…'You should be ashamed of yourselves,' she yelled at them," Lyon is quoted in the exhibit. "Then from the back of the crowd someone yelled, 'If you feel that way, why don't you marry one of them?,' and everyone laughed. The heroine ... sat down and joined the demonstrators."
A black church choir sings "This Little Light of Mine" in another photograph. An audio component of the exhibit lets visitors hear a recording made that night of the choir singing that song.
Not all the photos have people in them, but are disturbing nonetheless. An image of white and colored drinking fountains side by side in a Georgia courthouse shows not just that separate but equal was a myth, but also that such facilities were set up to intimidate AfricanAmericans. They had to bend down farther to get their water, at a much smaller fountain, in uncomfortably close proximity to the white fountain. A user of the white fountain could block access to the colored fountain.
Even more chilling are images of white Southern police officers. One drags casually on a cigarette while carrying away a protester. Some stand with firearms at the ready, watching protesters. In one photo, a cop flips off Lyon, and another grabs his crotch and makes a face.
A complementary exhibit upstairs from the Lyon-Withers show is a series of photos taken at UConn in April 1974, when students sat in at the Wilbur Cross Library to demand equal opportunity guidelines, affirmative action and a larger African American cultural center on campus. Johnson said the Benton hopes people who went to UConn at that time come see the exhibit and help curators identify the people in the photos.
"Making The Movement Move: Photography, Student Activism and Civil Rights" is at the Benton Museum, 245 Glenbrook Road, on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, from Tuesday until March 30. The opening reception is Thursday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. More at http://www.thebenton.org.