Martin Luther King Jr.
MLK & the Civil Rights Movement

Marion S. Trikosko

Updated / 2021

January 18th is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The official namesake national holiday in the U.S. which falls on the 3rd Monday of January and not always on his birthday (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968), has itself had a history of struggle in first becoming law in 1983, with general observances in all 50 states virtually needing a mandate starting only in the year 2000. Now, over half a century after MLK’s assassination, the country still has a long journey ahead.

Through some strange social contract, the civil inequities have only been transformed into legal institutionalized violence which continues to this day and the very notion of equality as an ideal is under attack by certain extreme right wing groups – or not so extreme as it turns out – some of whose most ardent champions and known associates continue to occupy seats in Congress and openly serve at the White House.

The diffusion of #WhileBlack sprung as a response to a growing phenomenon of people calling the authorities on innocent individuals doing the most mundane of activities but simply because they were black, and in proximity of what the caller might consider their diminishing personal space, or at least the privileged space of their people.

The more important movement of Black Lives Matter had all but successfully quelled by those overly self-righteous, feeling somehow no longer ultra-privileged, refusing to look beyond their limited personal culture or contrived grievances defended by obtuse reasoning. This past summer we saw a dramatic reawakening of this call against racism and violence following the murder of George Floyd by four police officers, adding to the growing list of instances of brutality, unapologetic in its frequency.

The very notion of equality as an ideal is under attack by certain extreme right wing groups – some of whose most ardent champions and known associates continue to occupy seats in Congress and openly serve at the White House.

Earlier in his term, the now twice-impeached and soon to be out President of the United States referred to some of the black majority nations including Haiti as something loosely translating as “container for feces,” only more eloquent, voicing his preference towards immigration from more nordic or white majority countries, such as Norway. Norwegians, of course, in turn, quickly responded in solidarity with the targeted countries distancing themselves from such grand ignorance. It’s worth noting that it was Norway along with the Swedish Academy who awarded Martin Luther King Jr. the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, a year prior to the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965. Perhaps America does need more visitation from the Scandinavian countries, if only to come as a committee to educate the White House on these matters.

Meanwhile, a most uncivil of movements in support of a lost leader has been playing out in the streets of America, on the steps of the Capitol with forced entries into its halls and chambers. Trump, now on his decline, blowing kisses and teleprompting his own billet doux for his insurrectionists and violent supporters seeking to overturn the elections; launching false equivalencies with marches for equality and justice while a record number of fire arms have been confiscated under threats against the imminent inauguration of the new President. This is the same war that has been playing out over centuries.

The selective memory of a nation still needs jogging in order for the dream to come true. Today’s feature honors Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Photography by Bruce Davidson, Yoichi Okamoto, Gordon Parks, James Karales, Steve Schapiro, Marion S. Trikosko, and Bob Adelman.

 

James Karales

Bob Adelman

Bob Adelman

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Yoichi Okamoto

James Karales

James Karales

Steve Schapiro

Steve Schapiro

“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land…

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream…”

– Martin Luther King Jr. / 1963

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The exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of over 80 works by 53 artists exhibited in Florence through a...
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