The Prize: Seven Decades of Lyrical Response to the Call for Civil Rights
October 10, 2019 - January 5, 2020
Tracy Sugarman (1921-2013), "Freedom School Student - Ruleville, 1964," 1964. ink and wash, 18 x 14.75 in. (unframed) Tougaloo College Art Collections, Tracy Sugarman Collections, Gift of the artist.
Tracy Sugarman (1921-2013), "A View of White Ruleville from Black Ruleville," 1964. ink and wash, 18 x 14.75 in. (unframed) 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 the era of Civil Rights continues to inspire freedom of expression today.
The ground-breaking television series Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985, tells the story of how “ordinary people with extraordinary vision redeemed democracy in America” by holding the government accountable for adhering to its moral obligation to recognize the humanity of all citizens. 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 (1921-2013) in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, and the “response” which is 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.