In light of Black History Month, the Crossman Gallery is paying tribute to the Civil Rights Movement by bringing an award-winning photographer and his photographs to UW-Whitewater.
In 1964, Herbert Eugene Randall, Jr., was awarded the John Hay Whitney Fellowship for Creative Photography. Soon after receiving this award, Randall met a man named Sanford Rose “Sandy” Leigh.
Leigh, who was the director of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in Hattiesburg, suggested that Randall take pictures of the Freedom activities. Randall dedicated an entire year doing just that.
The Freedom Summer Project in Hattiesburg and Palmers Crossing, Miss., lasted 10 weeks. The project had 90 volunteers and 3,000 local participants join the fight to gain voting rights for blacks.
White officials in the South kept black citizens from voting by making them take literacy tests, charging poll taxes, making the application process inconvenient and carrying out arson, battery and lynching.
The Freedom Summer activists set up several Freedom schools, libraries and community centers to develop the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
These strides caused great aggression in Mississippi’s white residents. This outrage caused drive-by shootings and constant harassment. Randall captured photographs of it all.
“It’s hard to imagine the level of violence, hatred and discrimination that existed in the Deep South in the mid-20th century,” Diretor of Crossman Gallery Michael Flanagan said. “Part of the rationale for this exhibit is to remind people how difficult life was for African-Americans in 1964.”
The “Faces of Freedom Summer: The Photographs of Herbert Randall” will come to UW-Whitewater on Feb. 29 through March 23 in the Crossman Gallery.
Flanagan said this exhibit is unique because it is a stand-up gallery opposed to a sit-down lecture.
A screening of the film “Eyes on the Prize” will occur at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Center of the Arts in room 30.
Dean of the College of Arts and Communication Dr. Mark McPhail, will deliver an overview of the exhibit.
The Black Student Union will host two receptions for the artist. The first being at 3 p.m. and the second at 5 p.m. on Feb. 29 in the Crossman Gallery.
Flanagan said the receptions will allow Randall to introduce himself, as well as let students, faculty and community members ask him questions.
It was McPhail who suggested the exhibit be brought to campus. He met Randall in 2000 when he put together a symposium on the Mississippi Freedom Summer at Miami University of Ohio. McPhail had the opportunity to interview Randall and ask about his experiences.
McPhail said Randall’s pictures hold significance to his life because he can compare them to personal experiences. He was four years old in 1964, a time when the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. He said that as a young African-American man in the 1960s, he had similar experiences as those expressed in the pictures.
“One of the things you see in the photographs, pretty consistently, is a great deal of joy and a great deal of community and collective commitment,” McPhail said. “And that was very much the experience that I grew up with.”
Randall will be the first artist featured on campus helping UW-Whitewater celebrate “Inclusive Excellence,” which is a UW System initiative geared toward inclusion and diversity on college campuses.
“This exhibition is not just a celebration of artistic expression, but it’s also an important lesson in history; one that may seem far removed but is still very much with us today,” McPhail said.