New York Photo Review
from the NYPR Archives

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Freedom Then and Now

The Long Walk to Freedom
R. Wayne Parsons
Photographer Unknown, “No child is free until all are free” circa 1960’s

Last year saw two excellent exhibitions in New York exploring the American Civil Rights Movement: “For All the World to See” at ICP and “The Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968” at The Bronx Museum of the Arts. This year’s contribution to understanding and commemorating this most important part of our cultural history can now be found in the lobby of The Interchurch Center (475 Riverside Drive at 120th Street). “The Long Walk to Freedom” takes a different and complementary approach from these earlier exhibitions, focusing on twenty-eight activists with long and varied histories of involvement in the struggle.

Hardly any of these honorees are household names; the closest we come to widespread name recognition is C. Virginia Fields, former Manhattan Borough president, or Moe Foner, former Local 1199 union leader who did as much or more than anyone to improve the employment conditions of health care workers in New York. But regardless of celebrity status or lack thereof, all of the individuals featured in this exhibition made, at considerable personal sacrifice and frequently at great personal risk, substantial contributions to the pursuit of racial justice. One example of the varied personalities documented here is Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew Goodman, the civil rights worker murdered in Mississippi in 1964. But Ms. Goodman’s activism dated back to her student days of the 1930s, when she organized farmer cooperatives and worked in support of anti-fascists in the Spanish civil war, and continued well into her later life. Another is Bob Moses, director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s program to register black voters in Mississippi in the 1960s. Recognizing that math literacy is essential for advancement of minorities in contemporary American society, he created the Algebra Project after receiving a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in the early 1980s.

This is not a typical gallery installation. Honorees are featured on free-standing panels, each with a contemporary portrait as well as older photos from the 1960s and later. A biography of each presents basic background information but, more importantly, documents their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Also provided are tributes from others who knew them well. There is also a time line noting civil rights milestones from the twentieth century. This is more a history exhibition than a photo show per se. There is a lot of text, so visitors should allot sufficient time to read and digest these inspiring stories.

This moving force behind this exhibition is Community Works, a non-profit organization that uses arts programs to engage under-served populations in New York City public schools. Over two hundred students participated in the project, doing research, interviewing honorees when possible, and organizing the findings into the exhibition we see. This project might well serve as a model for programs hoping to motivate and educate today’s young people.


The Long Walk to Freedom


The Interchurch Center
475 Riverside Drive
UWS & Uptown         Map

212-870-2200
interchurch-center.org

Thursday, January 27 to
Friday, April 1, 2011
Hours:
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery