Civil Rights Movement photographs are chronicled in special exhibit at Museum of Jewish Heritage

Museum of Jewish Heritage remembers Civil Rights
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 21:22:12-05

The tears began to well in the eyes of the woman whose gaze remained constant on a single photograph.  As the tears fell from her eyelids and began a slow track down her cheek, she dabbed at her face with her fingertips but kept her eyes focused on the photograph which had apparently hit her emotionally.

"I just can't get over the anger and hate of how people could feel like that," she said of the people who resisted the efforts of civil rights protestors who marched in the street for voting rights in the days before such rights were guaranteed for blacks in the American South.

"I have always seen people as equal, so I don't understand," said Darlene Balog who viewed an exhibit of photographs at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.  The museum has 150 photographs on exhibit taken by nine photographers who chronicled part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s primarily in the American South.

The exhibit is "This Light of Ours:  Activists Photographers of the Civil Rights Era." 

"These photographs remind us of the hard-fought efforts for voting enfranchisement in the Deep South," said Jeffrey Allen, museum education director. 

The photographs show some of the efforts by everyday people to desegregate public places and push for voting rights.  Some of them feature Martin Luther King.  Most of the photographs in the collection are of African Americans who were not prominent, but who were instrumental in the quest for civil rights.

The exhibit is housed in five rooms in the museum which chronicles the stories and history of Jewish life in the world.  "As the Museum of Jewish Heritage and a museum of diversity and tolerance, civil rights are important to learn," said Ellen Rudolph, museum executive director.  "They're important to all of us," she said.

Accompanying each photograph is a description of the scene and the photographer who took the picture.  Most of the photographs are in black and white.

There is also a section which looks at Cleveland the prominent role the city played in the gains of black political power.  The area centers on the election of the 1967 election of Carl Stokes as Mayor of Cleveland.  "2017 is the 50th anniversary of the election of Carl Stokes as the first black mayor of a major American city," said Rudolph.

From that point in the U.S., black political power began to grow as others in the struggle met with Stokes and his brother, Louis, who later served for 30 years as a congressman from Cleveland.  Many in the civil rights struggle met with the Stokes brothers to learn how to mobilize voters for black political gains in communities across the country. 

The exhibit at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage at 2929 Richmond Road runs through May 14, 2017. Find more information on the museum's website