If at all possible, you must see this exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum: Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties
Or if you can't get to Brooklyn, at least check out the website and the catalogue. But it's not the same as seeing the vibrant, sometimes chilling, often enraged, and at times oddly distant — a protective distance, the artist's self-shielding from painful emotion — of that terrible, sometimes joyous, often heart-breaking period of struggles for simple human dignity. Among the highlights: Romare Bearden's collages, a video of Nina Simone singing with full emotion "Mississippi Godam", a collage-construction by artist Jack Whitten called simply Birmingham : a newspaper photo from the bombing of the black Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in September 1963, which killed four girls, at the center of an explosion of aluminum foil, stocking mesh, plywood and paint.
We revisited that era yesterday at the Museum, with the added joy of performance and talk by Sonia Sanchez, Bernice Reagon, and Bernice's musician daughter Toshi. They reminded us of the hope that survived, and the victories — never complete, but still significant — in those years of nonviolent struggle. Nonviolent on one side, that is.