The Prize: Seven Decades of Lyrical Response to the Call for Civil Rights
October 10 - December 29, 2019
Tracy Sugarman (1921-2013), "Noon at Sanctified Church in Ruleville," 1964. ink and wash, 18 x 14.75 in. (framed) Tougaloo College Art Collections, Tracy Sugarman Collections, Gift of the artist.
The Prize: Seven Decades of Lyrical Response to the Call for Civil Rights is a visual—and lyrical—offering of how the quest for social justice in one era continues to inspire freedom of expression today.
The steadfast calls for access to the “prize” of full citizenship issued by African Americans during the era are fossilized in the silence of black and white photography. The responses, however, came in the form of creative expressions that included the combination of colorful rhythm and rhyme. When used in song lyrics, call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases where the second is heard in response to the first. In the mélange of African cultures that influenced US culture, call and response was practiced from public gatherings to private rituals, and it is these traditions that provided a sense of community, solace, and inspiration for songs and lyrics that became the impetus for an enduring social justice movement. The Prize revisits the “call” represented in sketches drawn from original photographs taken by Tracy Sugarman in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, and the “response” represented in song lyrics ranging from the iconic 1956 rendition of “Eyes on the Prize,” by Alice Wine, to the 2018 “This is America,” by Childish Gambino, inspired in part by Fannie Lou Hamer’s 1964 rhetorical question, “Is this America?”
This exhibition is free and open to the public.
Organized by Dr. Redell Hearn, Curator of Art and Civil Rights for the Mississippi Museum of Art and Tougaloo College, this exhibition and its programming are components of the Art and Civil Rights Initiative, a partnership between the Museum and the College supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.