What role did artists and artwork play in the civil rights movement?
What role did young people play in the civil rights movement?
How does the civil rights movement relate to today’s struggles for freedom and equality?
“[These images] are a testament to the ability of a committed, determined people to transform a nation, even the most powerful nation on earth, and bring it more in line with the call for justice.” —Congressman John Lewis
In 1962 photographer Danny Lyon captured three young African Americans protesting through prayer in front of a “whites-only” swimming pool and recreational facility in Cairo, Illinois. Their demonstration was part of a larger effort to integrate businesses and other spaces in the town. Lyon was involved in the movement and developed strong relationships with members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a group of young people who were committed to full-time grassroots organization. Through his involvement, Lyon captured many aspects of SNCC’s efforts, from prayer demonstrations led by a young John Lewis (at left) to violence suffered by students at the hands of the National Guard. John Lewis continued his activism for many years and was elected to the US Congress in 1986, where he continues to serve as a representative for Georgia in the House of Representatives.
SNCC used this 1962 photograph to develop its public image in support of expanded rights for African Americans. For example, it was used as part of a poster series; printed in bold below the demonstrators’ photograph were the words “come let us build a new world together.”