OPEN TODAY 10-5pm CAFÉ 10-5pm
OPEN

Celebrating the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Addresses Rally, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, by James Karales

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Addresses Rally, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1963, by James Karales (American, 1930–2002). Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

Today, as we witness the second inauguration of our first African American president, we will also celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has been thirty years since the federal holiday memorializing the great civil rights leader was first signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. For many people, this holiday means a day of service in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. For others, it is simply a time to reflect upon the significant changes his stalwart leadership helped to bring about during the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition to the annual celebration of King’s birth, 2013 also marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of South Carolina public schools. These landmark anniversaries are cause for both reflection and celebration. This winter at the Gibbes, we are showcasing an important collection of civil rights era photographs by acclaimed photographer James Karales. Engaged as a photo-journalist for Look magazine, Karales witnessed and documented many historic events during the Civil Rights Movement, and, in doing so, generated a remarkable body of work depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with his daughter, Yolanda, by James Karales

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with his daughter, Yolanda, 1962, by James Karales (American, 1930–2002). Image © Courtesy of the Estate of James Karales

Karales traveled extensively with Dr. King in 1962 and 1963. He captured King alongside other significant civil rights leaders including Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Rev. C.T. Vivian. Many of the inspiring images depict King in familiar public roles—leading rallies at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) conventions in Birmingham, and preaching sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. However, Karales was one of a handful of photographers allowed to document King at home. These rare images of King in private moments with his family at their Atlanta home are equally compelling. Most notable may be the photograph of King sitting with his daughter, Yolanda, at the kitchen table. Published in the February 12, 1963, issue of Look, the caption described that King was trying to explain to his daughter why she could not attend the city’s segregated amusement park. King’s daughter listens quietly, but the inexplicability of racial intolerance is evident in the exchange between the father and his young daughter, and this poignant moment is still palpable in Karales’ photograph today.

As we celebrate these landmark anniversaries we invite you to the Gibbes to reflect upon the people and events that made them possible. Witness to History: Civil Rights Era Photographs by James Karales will be on view at the Gibbes through May 12, 2013.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Related Content

International Perspectives

In February 2014, the Gibbes took a group of museum members on a trip to Cuba. I was lucky enough to travel with the group and it was an incredible…

READ MORE

The Colorful Collector behind the Black and White Photographs

The selection of fourteen photographs by major twentieth-century photographers now on view in Gallery 3 in the exhibition Magic in the Mundane: Modernist Photography features works by modern masters like…

READ MORE

Not Your Average Portraits

In 2016, the Gibbes received two incredible gifts to the permanent collection: a portrait of Mary Jackson by Mary Whyte and a portrait of Mary Whyte by Jill Hooper. The…

READ MORE

Uncovering Connections in Perspectives on Place

The artworks featured in Perspectives on Place (on view in Gallery 3 until September 10th) illuminate the history and some of the changes that have taken place in the neighborhoods…

READ MORE