An exhibition of 30 photographic images created by photographer Jessica Ingram, inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, is on view at the Tennessee State Museum through May 15, 2016. Road through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial includes both photographs and oral histories. Ingram traveled to various locations in the American South associated with the turbulence of the 20th century Civil Rights era to document these important historic sites. Ingram, a native Tennessean, is assistant professor at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
On Saturday, February 27, from 1 to 4 p.m., artist Jessica Ingram will discuss her work and moderate a distinguished panel of artists and historians who will speak about this very important time in American history. The panel will include historian Charles McKinney, Nashville Civil Rights figure Carrie Gentry, and her son former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry. The event, Telling Histories: Storytelling and Civil Rights, is free to the public. The Princely Players will be performing Civil Rights history in song after the panel discussion.
“While wandering around downtown Montgomery, I found myself in front of a large, ornate fountain situated on a brick pavilion,” explained Ingram. “A historical marker said I was standing on the former Court Square Slave Market. The language on the sign presented cold facts, including the dollar values for slaves, but said nothing about the meaning of the place. I’m from the South, and was raised with an awareness of the devastating history of slavery, but this site sparked something in me that caught fire.
“I was curious about what other hidden histories and sites I might be passing as I drove around the South. So I began researching and photographing places where Civil Rights era atrocities, Klan activities, and slave trade occurred. In Pulaski, Tennessee, not far from where I grew up, I found the room where the Ku Klux Klan was founded. The original historical marker on the building has been unbolted, flipped around, and reattached so that only the back of it can be seen. I visited the banks of the Tallahatchie River, where the disfigured body of 14-year-old Emmett Till was dumped. I traveled to the Armstrong Rubber Company in Natchez, where Wharlest Jackson was murdered by a car bomb on the day he received a promotion to a job formerly reserved for whites.”
Ingram goes on to say, “In addition to taking photographs, I have been gathering historical ephemera and recording oral histories from family members of victims, Civil Rights era journalists, and investigators looking into cold cases.”
“I was personally very moved by the concept, as well as the images, in Jessica Ingram’s photo-documentation,” said State Museum Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell. “While many of us know the stories associated with these sites during Civil Rights era, it is disheartening to see that many of these locations continue to remain overlooked and unacknowledged even today. However, in the last couple of years, more acknowledgement has occurred.”
Tennessee State Museum is located at 505 Deaderick Street in Nashville, TN For information, visit the museum’s website at www.tnmuseum.org