For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights

“…we had averted our eyes for far too long, turning away from the ugly reality facing us as a nation. Let the world see what I’ve seen.” – Mamie Till Bradley

For All The World To See: Visual Culture and The Struggle for Civil Rights examines the role that visual culture played in shaping and transforming the struggle for racial equality in America from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s.

In September 1955, shortly after 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi, his grieving mother, Mamie Till Bradley, distributed to newspapers and magazines a gruesome black-and-white photograph of his mutilated corpse. The mainstream media rejected the photograph as inappropriate for publication, but Bradley was able to turn to African-American periodicals for support. Asked why she would do this, Bradley explained that by witnessing, with their own eyes, the brutality of segregation, Americans would be more likely to support the cause of civil rights.

Through a compelling assortment of photographs, television clips, art posters, and historic artifacts, For All the World to See traces how images and media disseminated to the American public transformed the modern civil rights movement and jolted Americans, both black and white, out of a state of denial or complacency.

Visitors to this immersive exhibition will explore dozens of compelling and persuasive visual images, including photographs from influential magazines, such as Life, Jet, and Ebony; CBS news footage; and TV clips from The Ed Sullivan Show. Also included are civil rights-era objects that exemplify the range of negative and positive imagery—from Aunt Jemima syrup dispensers and 1930s produce advertisements to Jackie Robinson baseball ephemera and 1960s children’s toys with African American portraiture. For All The World To See is not a history of the civil rights movement, but rather an exploration of the vast number of potent images that influenced how Americans perceived race and the struggle for equality. AsEbony founder John H. Johnson put it, magazines and television “opened new windows in the mind and brought us face to face with the multicolored possibilities of man and woman.”

For All The World To See is curated by Dr. Maurice Berger, research professor, the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore. It is co-organized by the Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.

Featured Artifact

6.-Sepia_sized

Sepia, November 1959. 13 3/16 x 10 3/16 in. Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC,Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.206

“The picture magazines of the 1940s did for the public what television did for audiences of the 1950s: they opened new windows in the mind and brought us face to face with the multicolored possibilities of man and woman.”  – John H. Johnson

During the modern civil rights movement, visual culture was an important force in combating society’s habitually negative or ambivalent view of African-Americans. Black leaders, organizers, artists, and institutions fought to make visible the positive image of black people. This imagery counteracted the damaging effects of stereotypes by bolstering self-esteem, inspiring activism in the black community, and creating a new lens through which the nation at large viewed African-Americans.

As the movement evolved, constructive and self-assured images became an important part of media geared toward African-American audiences. In the 1940s and 1950s, the birth of the modern African-American pictorial magazine (like the Sepia cover featured above) paralleled the mainstream popularity of illustrated tabloid newspapers and picture magazines. Sepia, the African-American owned photography and journalism magazine, debuted in 1947.

Read More

Availability

For All the World to See tours April 2012 through January 2023. The dates below reflect 7-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please call for current availability.

April 2012–January 2023

  • April 6–May 25, 2012 Wyandotte County Historical Society
    Bonner Springs, KS
    booked
  • September 1–October 20 Terrebonne Parish Library
    Houma, LA
    booked
  • November 10, 2012–January 7, 2013 The Kansas African American Museum
    Wichita, KS
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2013 William F. Laman Public Library
    Little Rock, AR
    booked
  • April 6–May 25, 2013 Chippewa Valley Museum
    Eau Claire, WI
    booked
  • June 16–August 11, 2013 Oregon Historical Society
    Portland, OR
    booked
  • September 1–October 20, 2013 Bessie Smith Cultural Center
    Chattanooga, TN
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2014 University of Texas-San Antonio
    San Antonio, TX
    booked
  • April 6–May 25, 2014 William Jewell College
    Liberty, MO
    booked
  • September 1–October 20, 2014 Mercer Museum
    Doylestown, PA
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2015 Bell County Museum
    Belton, TX
    booked
  • April 6–May 25, 2015 Stearns History Museum
    St. Cloud, MN
    booked
  • June 16–August 11, 2015 Loves Jazz and Art Center
    Omaha, NE
    booked
  • September 1–October 20, 2015 Sioux City Public Museum
    Sioux City, IA
    booked
  • November 10, 2015–January 7, 2016 Cape Fear Museum
    Wilmington, NC
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2016 El Paso Museum of History
    El Paso, TX
    booked
  • April 6–May 25, 2016 Kean University
    Union, NJ
    booked
  • June 16–August 11, 2016 Lyman Allyn Art Museum
    New London, CT
    booked
  • September 1–October 20, 2016 Eastern Illinois University
    Charleston, IL
    booked
  • November 10, 2016–January 7, 2017 West Baton Rouge Museum
    Baton Rogue, LA
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2017 Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council
    Texarkana, TX
    booked
  • April 6–May 25, 2017
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2017
    Larned, KS
    pending
  • September 1, 2017–January 7, 2018 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
    booked
  • January 28–March 16, 2018
    Louisville, KY
    pending
  • April 6–May 25, 2018
    New Bedford, MA
    pending
  • June 16–August 11, 2018
    Kansas City, MO
    pending
  • September 1–October 20, 2018
    Knoxville, TN
    pending
  • November 10, 2018–January 7, 2019
    Bristol, TN
    pending
  • January 28–March 16, 2019
    Clarksville, TN
    pending
  • April 6–May 25, 2019
    Greenwood, MS
    pending
  • June 16–August 11, 2019
    Los Angeles, CA
    pending
  • September 1–October 20, 2019
    Greenville, NC
    pending
  • November 10, 2019–January 7, 2020
    Tacoma, WA
    pending
  • January 28–March 16, 2020
    Alexandria, LA
    pending
  • April 6–May 25, 2020
    Park City, UT
    pending
  • June 16–August 11, 2020 Refurbishment
    Kansas City, MO
    booked
  • September 1–October 20, 2020
    Ypsilanti, MI
    pending
  • November 10, 2020–January 7, 2021 -
    -
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2021 -
    -
    available
  • April 6–May 25, 2021 -
    -
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2021 -
    -
    available
  • September 1–October 20, 2021 -
    -
    available
  • November 10, 2021–January 7, 2022 -
    -
    available
  • January 28–March 16, 2022 -
    -
    available
  • April 6–May 25, 2022 -
    -
    available
  • June 16–August 11, 2022 -
    -
    available
  • September 1–October 20, 2022 -
    -
    available
  • November 10, 2021–January 7, 2023 -
    -
    available

Exhibition Details & Specifications

  • Curated By

    Dr. Maurice Berger, Research Professor, The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

  • Organized By

    The Center for Art, Design, and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.
  • Content

    The exhibition includes objects, graphics, magazines, and other paper ephemera related to the media presentation of the Civil Rights movement. It will also include multiple video presentations with film footage from television, cinematic, and governmental sources.

  • Duration

    7-week display

  • Rental Fee

    $1000

  • Grant

    -

  • Support

    -

  • Shipping:

    The maximum out of pocket shipping expense is $1,000. Exhibitor will coordinate with the M-AAA registrar for all outgoing transportation arrangements.

  • Security

    Limited

  • Square Feet

    1700 - 2000

  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    15 crates (and 1 tub) / 4,400 lbs

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by M-AAA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.