For Freedoms: Civil Rights and Human Rights

Exhibitions as Curator

Birmingham Museum of Art
Birmingham, Alabama
September 8, 2018 – November 18, 2019

Who has access to civil rights—the promise of political and social freedom and equality? This question seized Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s, as African Americans fought for fairness in all parts of their lives. This revolution became known as the civil rights movement and is a lasting legacy in our state. However, the struggle is far from over. The connections between the civil rights era and the present are visible in the works of art that shaped the movement, four of which are displayed here.

Each of these images is paired with one of the four freedoms listed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech: freedom of speech, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom of worship. Written during a time when the German government was oppressing the civil and human rights of Jewish people, Roosevelt argued that these universal civil rights were the foundation of a healthy, strong democracy. But who could access these freedoms in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and who can access them now? How much has changed in Alabama and the nation, and how can we learn from the civil rights era today?

About For Freedoms

For Freedoms is an artist-run platform for civic engagement, dialogue, and action through the arts. It was founded by the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman. In 2018, For Freedoms is sponsoring local, statewide, and national initiatives encouraging engagement with and participation in the political process. This exhibition is part of a larger set of exhibitions and programs taking place in Birmingham and across Alabama leading up to the midterm elections in November. For more information on related shows at partner arts organizations, visit