Time and Time Again: Is History Repeating Itself Through Photography?

Scholars have always discussed the notion that history repeats itself. Eugene O’Neill once said, “There is no present or future - only the past, happening over and over again - now.” Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce.” And of course, the most well-known quote about history repeating itself was said by George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This exhibition will transport the audience back in time, all the way to the mid-20th century, all the way back to the civil rights movement. 

The Civil Rights Movement was organized by Black Americans and allies, and it fought to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It sounds awfully similar to a movement that’s been at the forefront of current culture: the 21st-century equivalent to the civil rights movement, the Black Lives Matter movement. Those involved in Black Lives Matter fight and work together towards creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every person of color has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.

There are countless similarities between the two movements. For example, both movements advocate for equal treatment of people of color and their white counterparts. Another similarity is that the two movements also use protests to grab the attention of government officials and those in power, creating a platform for their mission a platform to enact change. Though both movements constantly emphasize and encourage non-violent civil disobedience, as might be expected some protests do lean on the riotous side. Both are integral to the fight for social and political reform.

The art that is created during these movements bears some similarities. Ranging from paintings depicting principal figures involved in the movements to photos taken during protests, the respective movements’ art eerily mirror each other. A photo of a group of civilians running for cover from a tear gas attack or a mural of the people who lost their lives during the modern movement could easily be from the civil rights era. This begs the question: is history repeating itself and are we witnessing it repeating itself through art?

As Sydney J. Harris once said, “History repeats itself, but in such cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done.” As Earth’s future leaders we cannot allow this. Through dynamic photos taken during the civil rights Era, Time and Time Again: Is History Repeating Itself Through Photography? will address the concept of history repeating itself and explore the consequences and results of such a dangerous possibility.


Curated by Elle Black, J'Taelii Heath, and Cydne Swanson