This year’s anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has offered occasion to pause and reflect on the injustices the legislation was meant to address, the actions that called attention to those injustices, and the continued struggle to see legislative ideals become everyday reality.
Last week we added a new “album” to the Library of Congress Flickr account exploring those themes though 20 selected photographs. We share only images with “no known copyright restrictions” on Flickr, and that added further challenge and focus to the selection process. The album includes photographs from the 1930s to the 1970s by government photographers, photojournalists, and participants who witnessed markers large and small on the journey towards civil rights for all.
Photographers working in the 1930s and 1940s for the Farm Security Administration documented social and economic conditions experienced by African Americans as part of a larger project to record rural and urban life throughout the United States. Flickr members commented on the power of this image, which conveys a whole system and set of assumptions through prominently displayed signage.
In the following decades, news photographers and participants captured many facets of the evolving civil rights movement and its consequences.
The Flickr album does not include the most iconic photographs from the era, most of which may still be under copyright. But it does show the many people and approaches involved in the campaign for equality in its most dramatic moments as well as its quieter ones.
- Have a look at the Flickr album and viewers’ comments.
- Explore a new exhibit at the Library of Congress that tells the story in greater detail through a variety of objects from the collections: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom”.
- View the results of a search in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog for images relating to civil rights, limited to those that have “no known restrictions.” A selection of such images is available in the reference aid: “The Civil Rights Era in the U.S. News & World Report Collection”
- Look through photographs made by Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photographers of the many locations where people encountered signs enforcing racial discrimination in the 1930s and ’40s.