Beginning in the 1950s, Ernest Withers (1922-2007) photographed Black resistance in Memphis—from pickets and sit-ins to court room scenes. Among his most famous images are those documenting the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Although earlier protests are included, this exhibition focuses on and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the events from March 27 through April 8, 1968. A wall of sanitation workers carrying “I AM A MAN” placards and police in riot gear on the 28th; Dr. King returning to Memphis on the 3rd; giving his historic "Mountaintop" speech at the Mason Temple; and the memorial march to City Hall on the 8th are among his evocative, iconic images.
A half century after these events and their documentation, it is clear that these photographs are not only a part of our nation’s visual memory, but also of the whole world.
Ernest C. Withers, American, 1922 - 2007, In Front of Clayborn Temple, Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, March 28, 1968, Gelatin silver print, printed from original negative in 1999, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art purchase with funds provided by Ernest and Dorothy Withers, Panopticon Gallery, Inc., Waltham, MA, Landon and Carol Butler, The Deupree Family Foundation, and The Turley Foundation 2005.3.32
© Withers Family Trust
This exhibition is organized by Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. It is co-curated by Brooks Chief Curator Marina Pacini and Barbara Andrews, former Curator of Education at the National Civil Rights Museum.
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