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Public Eye: A Civil Rights Case Study

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This recording of Bill Ayers's talk Public Enemy was given in conjunction with the exhibition Public Eye at Black Iris Gallery Richmond, VA.

Public Eye : A Civil Rights Case Study examines both the daily happenings and monumental moments of the historic Civil Rights era. On display are documents of the organizing, shaping, and transformative fight for racial equality and social justice in the United States from the 1960’s to the 1970’s as captured by the unblinking eye of surveillance.

History has repeatedly shown the struggle of the majority against consolidated power, as Stokely Carmichael stated, “ The masses don’t shed their blood for the benefit of a few individuals.” This archive represents a slice of time that bears witness to the actions of groups and individuals that mobilized, led by a moral compass that pointed towards revolution and outrage against segregation, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the war in Vietnam, the unethical treatment of prisoners, institutional racism, and the systematic oppression of people.

History has repeatedly shown the struggle of the majority against consolidated power, as Stokely Carmichael stated, “ The masses don’t shed their blood for the benefit of a few individuals.” This archive represents a slice of time that bears witness to the actions of groups and individuals that mobilized, led by a moral compass that pointed towards revolution and outrage against segregation, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the war in Vietnam, the unethical treatment of prisoners, institutional racism, and the systematic oppression of people.

The role surveillance culture plays in the struggle for social justice frames changing and prevailing ideas of freedom. Periodically, throughout these images, we see the subject looking back on the photographer, in these moments we are directly confronted with the complexities of this archive and its relevancy of the past to the present.


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