Taking its title from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech before his assassination in 1968, “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement from the Collection of The High Museum” reflects on the 55th anniversary of this tumultuous year in American history. While Dr. King’s assassination is often described as the closing bookend on the civil rights movement, activism across the intervening 55 years has proven that the movement for racial equality and justice in the United States is not a finished story. Drawn from the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, this exhibition underscores how photography can chronicle and even shape history. Historical works of iconic moments from the movement by Gordon Parks, Danny Lyon, Doris Derby, Ernest Withers, and others are juxtaposed with contemporary photographs by Dawoud Bey, Sheila Pree Bright, Matthew Brandt, and others that speak to the past’s reverberations into the present and future. These artworks demonstrate the wide range of artistic responses to the movement, from photo-journalism to conceptualism, from tender portraits to charged landscapes.
A Fire That No Water Could Put Out: Civil Rights Photography is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in collaboration with the Academy Art Museum.