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Memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Central Park, New York City, 1968

This installation of over forty photographs examines the history and legacy of the civil rights movement. Iconic prints drawn from the High Museum’s celebrated collection demonstrate the power and potency of photography during that significant era, while contemporary works point to the ongoing struggle for equal rights.

Taking its title from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech before his assassination in 1968, “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out” reflects on the fiftieth anniversary of this tumultuous year in American history. Following his death in Memphis, Dr. King’s enormous funeral procession through Atlanta took over the city’s streets with thousands of heartbroken Americans who gathered to celebrate his life and legacy. While his assassination is often described as the closing bookend on the civil rights movement, activism across the intervening fifty years has proven that the movement for racial equality and justice in the United States is not a finished story.

Through some of the most powerful images from the High’s significant collection of civil rights photography, this installation underscores how photography can chronicle and even shape history. Historical works, including several recent acquisitions, are juxtaposed with contemporary photographs that speak to the past’s reverberations into the present and future. The installation is arranged into three sections: the era of Dr. King’s leadership, the year of his death, and contemporary reflections on the civil rights movement’s enduring legacy. These artworks demonstrate the wide range of artistic responses to the movement, from photojournalism to conceptualism, from tender portraits to charged landscapes.

*On view through April 29, 2018

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