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On May 17, 1957, Lee Friedlander was given full access to photograph the participants of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, DC. This extraordinary event brought together many of the great thinkers and leaders of the civil rights movement and solidified Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s position as its preeminent leader. The 58 previously unpublished photographs reproduced as duotones in this important and beautifully produced commemorative record are among Friedlanders earliest work. With his full access to the presenters stage, Friedlander was able to portray the famous individuals at the eventMahalia Jackson, A. Philip Randolph, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, among many othersas well as the audience of some 25,000 men, women and children who gathered to give voice and energy to the ideas embattled by the movement. Timed with the three-year anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Prayer Pilgrimage placed pressure on the Eisenhower administration to uphold desegregation in the South and made voting rights a focal point of the struggle for equality. Also included in this publication is a facsimile typescript from The King Center of MLKs Give Us the Ballot speech and additional ephemera from the march, including the printed program and the Call to Prayer distributed to participants. The complete (and only existing) set of the 58 prints, acquired by Yale University Art Gallery, will be on exhibition at YUAG and other venues in 2017 in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Prayer Pilgrimage.
Picturing America argues that photography is a prevalent practice of making places, determining how we situate ourselves in the world. As a prime site of knowledge and change, it enacts our perception as well as transformative conception of American environments.
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