At the height of the civil rights movement, photographic images of the struggle for equality alerted the nation to injustices waged against African-Americans. Years later, these images are still part of our collective memory.
Doris Derby, director of African-American Student Services and Programs at Georgia State, is one of nearly 50 photographers whose work is included in “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956-1968,” an exhibit on display through Oct. 5 at the High Museum of Art. The exhibit features approximately 200 photographs that helped shape public opinion on the civil rights movement.
“A lot of people were immune to what was going on,” Derby said. “A lot of people had blinders on. It had been tradition, the way things were, and so the photographs really acted to vividly depict the struggle for equality, the individual acts of the struggle, and the reaction of the segregationists who did not want to change the status quo.”
Derby, who began documenting her subjects through painting, drawing and photography as a child, has previously exhibited her work at Georgia State as well as other venues.
“I was doing what had always been one of my goals – to see African-Americans make headway in the arts, in education and employment, and they all tied together in photographs,” she said of her work.
“Road to Freedom,” which also includes a collection of historical documents, will travel throughout the U.S. after it leaves the High. Derby is also preparing for an upcoming exhibit at Georgia State titled “Disappearing Black Neighborhoods.” These images capture the everyday life of those growing up in the segregated South of the 1960s.
“I was always interested in the depiction of African-American people in positive light, in full light,” Derby said. “This has been one of the things that I’ve done all my life, getting images of African-American people out for other people to see.”