Photographs, Film, and Video

I Have a Dream

<i>New York City</i> from <i>Black and White in America</i> Leonard Freed, 1963.  © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

New York City from Black in White America, Leonard Freed, 1963. © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

One night when I was 10, I sat down to do some homework, reading a speech in my history book. It was just another day, just another assignment.

But as I read this speech, I became confused and angry. Every day at school, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, which promised that we in the United States are free and equal. All of us. And yet this speech was telling me otherwise.

As I kept reading, I had an awakening, a realization that the ideal world I’d grown up in wasn’t so perfect. I realized that the ideas behind our country’s founding were just that—ideas. They were dreams, hopes. Not reality. Not yet, at least.

But as I continued to read, my anger changed to hope, to a sense that the dream could become a part of the real America. And I knew I would have to make sure that I did my part to make it so.

It’s the 47th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Photographer Leonard Freed was there on that day, capturing the historic moment in the capitol. Seeing his pictures in the exhibition Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties reminded me of that shiver of awakening 30 years ago. You can see more of Freed’s work during this period in his pioneering photo essay Black in White America.

Much has changed. But these images, and today’s anniversary, remind me that we all still have work to do.

<i>Washington, D.C.</i> from <i>Black and White in America</i> Leonard Freed, 1963.  © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

Washington, D.C. from Black in White America, Leonard Freed, 1963. © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos, Inc.

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      gettypubs:

      COBALT

      The histories of many colors are amazing, but cobalt may well have the most brilliant of them all. From the Ming Dynasty to Renaissance Italy, cobalt was a popular glaze for porcelain and other ceramics. Cobalt ink is invisible unless exposed to flame, which turns it a vivid green. In the 17th century, this quality made Europeans believe it was witchcraft, but decades later it was used as a neat trick on fire screens. It wasn’t until 1802 that painters added cobalt to their palette. 

      It is this little tidbit from cobalt’s history that saved master forger Han van Meergeren’s skin after WWII, when he was tried for collaborating with the Nazis. Want to find out how some art history sleuthing and smart science got him a not guilty verdict? Hint: Don’t try to forge a Vermeer with cobalt! 

      Read all about it in The Brilliant History of Color in Art!

      Images, clockwise:

      Glazed earthenware dish with a marchant ship, Italy, about 1510. 

      Glazed earthenware tile floor, Spain, about 1425-50.

      Porcelain lidded vase, China, about 1662-1772.

      All objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

      12/18/14

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