This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

October 26, 2022 – April 9, 2023


As relevant today as they were half a century ago, more than 150 black-and-white images chronicling the Southern Freedom Movement are featured in This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, on view October 26, 2022, through April 9, 2023, at the Maltz Museum.

This Light of Ours is based on a book of the same name edited by Leslie G. Kelen and featuring works by nine activist photographers who documented the clash between institutionalized discrimination and determined resistance by activists and volunteers during the mid-1960s. The stunning photographs chronicle a pivotal time in American history that can be explored through interrelated sections: Black Life in the Deep South, Organizing for Freedom, State and Local Terror, Marching Against Fear, and Black Power. The Maltz Museum added video footage, life-size installations, and material about voter suppression today.

The exhibition originally appeared in Cleveland in 2016, traveled the country, and now returns for its new showing in 2022. “We added a new section for this run,” explained David Schafer, the Museum’s Managing Director. “We are in a voting year, and this exhibition is about Americans participating in democracy. That’s why we chose to add a new section on voter suppression, then and now. What happened 50 years ago is highly relevant to what is happening today.”

It is the Museum’s hope that every middle and high school student in Northeast Ohio can see this exhibition and witness events of the 1960s through the literal lens of people who were there – activist photographers.

Cleveland’s own Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., a former regional director of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a Selma march participant once said, “If there is no conscience in the community, we have to be that conscience.”

©1966 Maria Varela, Courtesy CDEA

©1966 Maria Varela, Courtesy CDEA

This Light of Ours features photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela and Tamio Wakayama. The photographic portion of the exhibition was organized by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art with major support provided by the Bruce W. Bastian Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Curator: Matt Herron; Historical Consultant: Charlie Cobb Jr.; Project Originators: Leslie Kelen and Steven Kasher. The films, design and exhibition experience were conceived and produced by the Maltz Museum. Unfinished Business curator: Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore. The local presentation of this exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the presenting sponsor: Dee and Jimmy Haslam.


Maltz Museum