GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning - Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

The Impacts of A Divided America: The Faces Behind the Civil Rights Movement

Assembled from the High Museum’s vast collection of Civil Rights Photography, these photographs highlight the diversity within the community of protesters and activists throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Set in a variety of places, from big cities to front porches to parks, the images capture the lives of men, women, children, and elders who all work towards the establishment of equality.

This special exhibition is first titled “Impacts of a Divided America” because, during the time that the photographs were taken, the entirety of America was engaged in a poignant debate about the rights of African Americans and their status in society. Some people fought for the subjugation of African Americans while others sought to uplift them. The photographs assembled were chosen to express the different ways in which the Civil Rights Movement impacted the populations who were engaged in the struggle for social justice and the end of racial discrimination.

Arranged in a specific way to provide a viewpoint that gradually changes focus from large protests to the experiences of a few figures, this exhibit works to progressively draw us into the events and emotions of the people and communities featured. The exhibit is divided into several sections including the depictions of demonstrations, voters, children, and women. Beginning with demonstrators, the photos walk us through marches formed by unknown students as well as established civil rights activists. The large masses of people are gradually pared down until there are only a few protesters per frame, and the person’s individuality comes into view.

Although knowing the names of Civil Rights Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Bayard Rustin is important, through this collection, the distinctive lives of the unknown supporters and marchers in the movement are highlighted. The Civil Rights Movement was formed by a large collection of people, many of whose names will never be mentioned in a history book; and yet, their experiences and emotions are essential to understanding the scope of the movement.

Although the Civil Rights Movement was composed of many important marchers and demonstrators, the work of the people who carried the movement through ballots and votes cannot be ignored. For this reason, the curators of this special exhibit chose to highlight the faces of voters through the Museum's Civil Rights Photography Collection. This exhibit strives to provide a comprehensive view of the Civil Rights Movement, so special attention is given to amplifying the voices of women from within the movement. In addition to presenting the female lives within the Civil Rights Movement, the presence of children as viewers and activists of the movement is revealed through this collection of photographs. The Civil Rights Movement was not confined to the streets or voting boxes, and therefore entire communities of people, young and old were drawn into the mindset and ideals. By highlighting the lives of youth through this exhibit, evidence of how far-reaching the Civil Rights Movement was, comes to the surface.

By exhibiting this collection of photographs, the curators hope to convey the many facets through which change was implemented and the variety of individuals who struggled for equality and an end to racial discrimination.


The Impacts of A Divided America: The Faces Behind the Civil Rights Movement