Staging the Struggle

By: Magazine Editor
Sep 13, 2012

(Group of men standing with I am a man signs)

For All the World to See – the award-winning exhibit created at UMBC on the role of visual culture in America’s Civil Rights movement – makes a triumphant return to campus.

Introduction by Richard Byrne ’86

Photo essay text by Maurice Berger, Research Professor and Chief Curator at UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture

One major victory in the preservation of American memory over the last 40 years is the prominence now enjoyed in that narrative by our nation’s long, bloody and (in many respects) still-unfinished Civil Rights struggle.

Indeed, the iconic images of that journey toward equality are now inescapable – so much so that they are perhaps in danger of becoming over familiar – and thus diminished in power and pathos.

The new challenge for historians and other scholars is to recount the battle for Civil Rights afresh, keeping its immediacy alive and deepening its hold on our shared memory.

For those seeking to meet that challenge, the unalloyed success of For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights – an exhibit created by UMBC professor Maurice Berger at the university’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) – is an exhilarating guide to the way forward.

The power of For All the World to See is its excavation of a rich trove of visual history around the Civil Rights movement to deepen and enrich the context in which the struggle’s classic images are viewed. The exhibit does not displace the epic photojournalism of the movement, but intensifies its resonances through juxtapositions – profound and provocative – with television, print and material culture of the 20th century.

For All the World to See already has found a home at some of the key cultural institutions in the United States – including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., the International Center of Photography in New York City, and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago – and received glowing reviews in the press – including major features in the New York Times and the Washington Post. And For All the World to See’s impact will spread even further as a traveling version of the exhibit visits at least 20 more museums across the nation between now and 2017 as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ NEH On the Road series.

The UMBC community has eagerly awaited a chance to welcome For All the World to See back to the university’s campus. And to mark the occasion of its arrival on November 15, 2012, UMBC Magazine asked curator Maurice Berger to select a few images from the exhibit as a preview to give readers a taste of what they can expect when they see the full show at CADVC.

PHOTO ESSAY:  With essays by Maurice Berger, Research Professor and Chief Curator at UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture

INTERVIEW: Read an interview with Maurice Berger by UMBC Magazine editor Richard Byrne ’86

This article appeared in UMBC Magazine’s Fall 2012 issue.

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