Images of the Civil Rights Movement at The Florida Holocaust Museum

ST. PETERSBURG  — The Florida Holocaust Museum (FHM) announced plans for “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement,” as well as their original exhibition Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay, on display from Aug. 1 through Dec.1.

Heron, Civil Rights Images at Holocaust MuseumThe Museum will hold an opening reception featuring photographers whose work is featured in This Light of Ours August 1 at 7 p.m. at The FHM, 55 5th St. S.

This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, an exhibition of the Center for Documentary Expression and Art, presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work and voices of nine activist photographers – men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement.

Unlike images produced by photojournalists who covered breaking news events, most of the photographers in this exhibition were affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and documented its activities by focusing on the student activists and local people who together made the movement happen.

The exhibition, generously presented by Bank of America, is comprised of 157 black and white photographs taken in Mississippi and Alabama from 1963 to 1966. The exhibition features an audio guide presented by the photographers, which provides visitors with eyewitness accounts and descriptions of how and why the photos were taken.

Clearwater resident Bob Fletcher is one of the photographers whose work is featured in This Light of Ours. He documented “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., and spent over two decades capturing the Civil Rights Movement from Harlem to Mississippi, and also went overseas to film the black culture and the struggle for independence in Africa. Fletcher went to law school at New York University in 1987 and currently has a local law firm in the Tampa Bay area.

Beaches, Benches and Boycotts: The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay, an original exhibition of The Florida Holocaust Museum sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, will be on display in conjunction with This Light of Ours, with support for both exhibitions provided by media partner Bright House.

The focus of most civil rights history is written about places such as Alabama and Mississippi, as if few challenges occurred elsewhere. Tampa Bay remained racially segregated at the dawn of the civil rights era and many local institutions and establishments held out on integration for several years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Brown vs. Board of Education.

Under “Jim Crow” every aspect of African-American life in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and the surrounding cities was segregated, including neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, restaurants, beaches and more.

The Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay may have had characteristics similar to other areas of the South, but its stories are its own. Beaches, Benches and Boycotts will feature documents, advertisements, photographs and other memorabilia that accurately present the history of civil rights in our Tampa Bay-Sarasota communities, while illuminating our region’s struggle with racial equality and shining a light on the local leaders who changed our cities.

“This will be the first exhibition to focus on the Civil Rights Movement in Tampa Bay and Sarasota. Through the exhibition and related programs, we hope to engage our communities in conversations about our shared history, a first step toward creating a future without intolerance and hate,” said Elizabeth Gelman, Executive Director of The FHM.

Join The FHM for the opening reception of both exhibitions August 1 at 7p.m. Photographers Bob Adelman, Bob Fletcher and Tamio Wakayama, whose work is included in This Light of Ours, will be speaking. FREE to FHM members, $9 general admission. Please RSVP by calling (727) 820-0100, ext. 271.

This Light of Ours is an exhibition organized by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art. Major support for the exhibition has been provided by the Bruce W. Bastian Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A special thanks to the State of Florida for making these exhibitions possible.

The Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of innocent men, women and children who suffered or died in the Holocaust. The Museum is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides.

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