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New UTSA Exhibit Highlights Black History And Civil Rights In America

A new exhibit opens January 22 at the UTSA main campus off Loop 1604. The exhibit is an extensive collection of race-related media, photographs, video and items from bygone eras. It’s called For All The World To See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, and according to Associate Professor of Art History Scott Sherer, that title is significant.  

"The exhibit takes its title from the words of Mamie Till Bradley, who was the mother of Emmett Till," Sherer said.

Till was the 14-year-old Chicago boy who, while visiting Mississippi relatives in 1955, was beaten to death by racists. When his badly maimed body was returned to his mother, she insisted the casket be open so that all the world would see what had been done to him. I noted to Scherer that the images are horrific.

"Yes, they are horrific, and that’s one of the parts of the civil rights story," he said.

But don’t think the exhibit is all about man’s inhumanity to man. Uplifting themes of struggle, plus ways that the media shone the light not just on inequality, but also on the way African Americans earned their respect through talent and fortitude. And then, as Sherer noted, there’s this.

"They have an extensive collection of mostly African-American artists," he said.

San Antonio collectors Paula and Edwin Miles’ paintings line the walls, a complementary exhibit that adds an artistic aesthetic the exhibit wouldn’t otherwise have. I asked Sherer why this look back is important in 2014.

"I think it’s important to recognize that the history of civil rights is an ongoing project. Each decade and each generation has to work to negotiate relationships between different ethnic and cultural groups.”

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii