On February 1, 1960, four Black students refused to leave a Woolworth’s lunch counter after being denied service. Over 24 more students came the next day along with a TV reporter. As the image of the students seated at the lunch counter spread around the country, so did sit-ins. On June 25th of that year, Woolworth’s was forced to desegregate their lunch counter. Policy changed; the “sit-in” was born.
This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement is an exhibition of photographs taken during the Southern Freedom Movement. Organized by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art in Salt Lake City, Utah, it is on view at the Brooks through May 10, reaching Memphis during the 50th year anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and 55 years after the legendary Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in. Although you won’t see an image of efforts to integrate lunch counters in the exhibition, you could say that the sit-in indirectly inspired every image you will see: most of the photos on view were taken by members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a group that formed after and was inspired by the sit-ins that spread across the country.
The Brooks is pleased to bring this exhibition to Memphis during such an important time of remembrance. Recent news events have launched social justice issues to the forefront of public discourse, and there is no better place than a museum to host and nurture these conversations. We brought in many community members to help us plan public programming to offer throughout the next few months. Take advantage. Bring your friends, family, coworkers, and thoughts.