"Lest We Forget" Series

 

Images of the Black Civil Rights Movement

Robert Templeton

A Special Exhibition

Like a latter-day liree (teaching) man of the African Americans of Suriname and French Guiana, Robert Templeton forces us to confront the past and present. Africans brought to Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) in South America in the early 1600s as slaves managed daring escapes from their captors. Joined by Africans who had arrived earlier and who were encouraged by the newcomers' courageous efforts, these Bush African Americans waged a one-hundred year guerilla war from the dense, almost impenetrable rain forest. The Dutch government finally realized the futility of their fight against the people of the bush, and retreated.

These African men and women fought arduous, unceasing battles, and so never took their freedom lightly. Indeed, they kept Africa alive in the New World more than any other group. With painful memories of physical and sexual abuse and laborious back-breaking work for the Dutch and the English colonialists, they still keep their past alive today through regular ancestral rituals to honor their valiant forebears. During these rituals, the head medicine man and the chief liree (teaching) man get in touch with the spirits of the ancestors and teach the history of their people. Throughout the ritual, which includes drumming, singing, dancing, and drama, important historical figures and their acts of bravery are remembered, for, in order to remain free, the memory of their past and their struggle must be kept alive.

Like the ancestral ritual of the Bush African Americans, Robert Templeton's "Lest We Forget. . . Images of the Black Civil Rights Movement" celebrates the violence and struggle of the past, and the ancestors who coerced, insisted, and goaded those resistant to change. Although Templeton might have begun his images and portraits in Africa, where the civil rights of black people were first violated, or in Suriname, where Bush African Americans regained their civil rights, he began his narrative in the 1800s with a portrait of Frederick Douglass, the prototype of the black liberator.

One winter in Miami when Templeton was painting portraits, the concept for the series occurred to him as he first encountered separate facilities for Blacks and Whites. This racism, occurring in America, smoldered in his thoughts for years. Finally, in 1967 when he was in Detroit covering the riots for Time magazine, he realized that he could remind Americans through pictorial narrative that ours is a country founded on democratic principles.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays inspired the title of the exhibit and helped the artist decide who should be depicted. Through his own personal research and suggestions from Dr. Mays, Templeton decided how to proceed. One series of works forms a continuous narrative, showing violence, pain, and struggle. Among these works are Detroit Riots (1967), The Young Blacks (1967), Black Power or Nonviolence? (1968), Despair, then Anger (1968), Solidarity Day (1968), and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Ghandi (1968). Within this narrative, between historical events, he places portraits of men and women who fought for or embodied democracy. Portraits of many of the more recent figures, including Ralph McGill (1964), Ralph Abernathy (1964), Benjamin Mays (1964), Hubert Humphrey (1970), Rosa Parks (1970), Bobby Seale (1971), Roy Wilkins (c. 1972), and Asa Phillip Randolph (c. 1972), were painted from life.

Templeton's portraits vary widely in style and form. The Frederick Douglass portrait, for example, has a kind of "antique" quality. While Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington, and W. E. B. DuBois (founders of the NAACP) are a portrait trio, Frederick Douglass's face is shown in three-quarter view. Storey, Ovington, DuBois, and Whitney Young are all full-face. In yet another variation, Templeton depicts Booker T. Washington in a full-length portrait. Even though the figures and scenes are rendered naturalistically, they are not photographic, but rather one man's interpretation of what events and people looked like historically, psychologically, and symbolically.

The colors in the painting of Malcolm X are different from all the other naturalistic tones and hues used in the series. Templeton portrays Malcolm X in blue or "sad tones," because, according to Templeton, this vibrant and intense man was "cut down in his prime and because of all of the heat he got from the white establishment . . . There is a kind of wail coming out ... a blue wail . . . like a piece of blues". On the other hand, the portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr., which engaged Templeton from 1964 to 1985, expresses no sadness, even though both men were assassinated. Templeton utilizes warm, mellow colors for King. The drawings and paintings vary further in dimension. They range from the petite, but nonetheless powerful, courtroom drawings of Bobby Seale, Black Panther, to the enormous, over life-size portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, Templeton combines several media in this series, including oil, acrylic, pastel, charcoal, and collage. The surfaces of the paintings are generally very smooth with little or no texture.

 

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Oil, about 1984, 40 x 30 inches

Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and government official, was born of a white father and a black slave mother in Maryland, in 1817. Despairing of his future under slavery, he escaped and found his freedom in a coastal town in Massachusetts, where he learned to read and write and to speak tellingly and with prophetic strength about his ordeals as a slave and as a runaway. The abolitionists were impressed with him, and he was heard on hundreds of platforms in the US, and in Canada and England, calling for rights for all. He opposed the colonization movement, which would have freed slaves only for the purpose of settlement in such African outposts as Liberia. He was a loud and clear advocate of the uncompromising struggle for immediate emancipation in his speeches and in the pages of his newspapers as well. He became famous, and he numbered Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth among his friends and admirers.

In later years he served his nation as diplomatic minister to Haiti and as a government official in a succession of administrations. He was Marshal in the District of Columbia for annual celebrations of freedom. He traveled and lectured widely here and abroad, and became an international figure whose judgments in speech or print were widely respected. In his life story, My Bondage and My Freedom, he wrote that "I have worked hardest to get equal rights for Negroes" but this focus "does not keep me from working to help people of all races."

The website Who2 provides excellent additional biographical information on many of the individuals portrayed in this exhibit. Click for additional information on Frederick Douglass.

Another excellent site is an Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis project containing links to electronic versions of many of Douglass' writings.

Also excellent is Wikipedia

 

 

 

Booker Taliafero Washington

Booker Taliafero Washington

Oil, 1985, 36 x 30 inches

Booker T. Washington, educational leader, was born in 1856 in Virginia to a white father and a black mother who was a slave. He was brought up in a dismal cabin and was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. The family moved to the neighborhood of Charleston, West Virginia, where he attended school, and then went off at seventeen to Hampton Institute, where he worked his way through as a janitor. He distinguished himself as a student, and in 1881 he was chosen to become the founding head of a normal school at Tuskegee. After years of hard work, the school was firmly established. He lectured widely on educational subjects and became a familiar of such national figures as Theodore Roosevelt, whose dinner table at the White House he shared. He had become the recognized leader of black Americans following the death of Frederick Douglass. He advocated social separation of the races combined with industrial training and cooperation. For such views he was called the "Great Compromiser" by friends and such foes as Du Bois and Monroe Trotter, who demanded immediate and complete social equality. It was his accommodating quality that brought him, and kept him, at the place where he dominated the movement for civil rights, able to raise funds and other support from former slaveholders of the South and from a broad national community. His Up From Slavery is his legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creators of the NAACP

Creators of the NAACP: Storey, Ovington, and Du Bois

Moorfield Storey, lawyer and author, was born in Massachusetts in 1845 and studied at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and in law offices. He practiced law in Boston, where he was a reformer and a strong supporter of civil rights. He wrote a number of books and pamphlets including Legal Aspects of the Negro Question and Problems of Today, in which he discussed race prejudice. He was among the sixty prominent Americans who responded to the call of Mary White Ovington to meet in February 1909, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, to protest the recent frightening riot in Springfield, Illinois, and the many decades of such oppressive acts of terror as burnings and lynchings. He became the first national president of the NAACP.

Oil, about 1984, 30 x 50 inches framed

Mary White Ovington, reformer and the spirit behind that meeting, was born in Brooklyn in 1865, where she grew up in an atmosphere of abolitionism and women's rights. She attended Packer Collegiate Institute there before going to Radcliffe College for two years. She worked in settlement houses and came to know the depth of the problems of the blacks. In 1911, she published her 1904 study Half a Man: The Status of the Negro. By that time, she had seen her 1909 meeting evolve into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. For more than forty years she served as board member, executive secretary, and chairman, and served as conciliator among the various factions that threatened to destroy the movement. Among her books was the autobiographical The Walls Came Tumbling Down.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, scholar and activist, was born in western Massachusetts in 1868. He attended local schools where he was usually the only black. He went off to Fisk University, graduated, and enrolled at Harvard College as a junior. He stayed on through his doctorate in 1895. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania while doing the research for his magisterial Philadelphia Negro (1899). He taught at Atlanta University and became the ideological rival to Booker T. Washington upon the publication of his Souls of Black Folk. He was the first NAACP director of research and publications and he founded Crisis of which he was editor for two dozen years. He resigned when his independence as editor was threatened. He taught at Atlanta, returned to the NAACP for a stormy few years, and left again. He died as he had lived, in controversy.

For additional facts about the NAACP, visit their website at www.naacp.org.

 

Asa Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph

Oil, about 1978, 44 x 30 inches

Asa Philip Randolph, labor leader, was born in 1889 in Florida. After high school, he went to New York City and studied at City College. He was active in the Socialist party, and in 1925 he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. From that position of power he was influential in the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee. During these New Deal years, he threatened a march on Washington by a hundred thousand black people, to protest discrimination in the defense industries. He opposed discrimination also in the armed forces, and in 1955 he became a member of the AFL-CIO executive council. Two years later he was a vice president and in regular opposition to George Meany, the union leader who was lukewarm on civil rights in the unions. It was during this active period that he was called the "most dangerous Negro in America" by those who feared his power. He was an organizer of the August 1963 march on Washington, sharing leadership responsibilities with Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and James Farmer. In later years his socialism became more moderate and he became active in the Urban League and the Liberal party. To carry out his commitment to his causes, he founded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, symbolizing the power of the black worker. He died in 1979, recognized for his many solid contributions to the civil rights movement.

Benjamin Elijah Mays

Benjamin Elijah Mays

Oil, 1969, 40 x 32 inches

Benjamin Elijah Mays, educator, was born in 1895 in South Carolina, and graduated from Bates College in Maine in 1920. He went to the University of Chicago for his masters degree and doctorate, and while he was working on those degrees, he was ordained into the Baptist ministry. He taught at Morehouse College and at South Carolina State College. From 1934 to 1940, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Religion and then moved on to the presidency of Morehouse College, a position he distinguished for the next quarter of a century. He also served his community well, becoming the first black president of the Atlanta school board. He spoke early and often against segregation and for education. He received nearly thirty honorary doctorates and other honors and awards including election to the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations, one of a dozen major leaders so honored. He had been a model for one of his Morehouse students, Martin Luther King, Jr., and he served the young minister as an unofficial senior adviser.

Charcoal, 1964, 14 x 11 inches

He gave the eulogy at King's funeral. Among his books were the first sociological study of African-American religion, The Negro's Church, published in 1933; and The Negro's God, of 1938; Disturbed about Man; of 1969, and his autobiographical Born to Rebel, of 1971. These books reveal a combination of sharp intellect with religious commitment and prophetic conviction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ralph Emerson McGill

Ralph Emerson McGill

Oil, 1984 (from 1969 photo shoot), 40 x 30 inches

Ralph Emerson McGill, newspaperman, was born in Tennessee in 1898 and studied at Vanderbilt University between 1917 and 1922, with time out for service in the Marines during 1918 and 1919. Upon graduation, he joined the staff of the Banner in Nashville where he worked for a half-dozen years before he moved to Atlanta and its Constitution. He spent the next decade as its sports editor, before becoming executive editor for another four years. He was the editor from 1942 to 1960. In those years, he had become an outspoken critic of bigotry and segregation. For the decade of the 1960s, he was the publisher of the Constitution, and his writings led to his being called the "Conscience of the South." In these years many honors came to him, including the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and honorary degrees from about twenty colleges including Harvard, 1961; Morehouse, 1962; Notre Dame, 1963; Brown, 1964; and Atlanta and Tufts, 1965. He was a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His adopted city of Atlanta honored him by changing the name of a street to Ralph McGill Boulevard, after it had carried for decades the name of the first imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. His books include The South and the Southerner and No Place to Hide: The South and Human Rights. His writing had chronicled the South's "Second Reconstruction."

 

 

 

 

 

Roy Wilkins

Roy Wilkins

Oil, about 1984 (from photo)

Roy Wilkins, leader of the NAACP, was born in Missouri in 1901. He was brought up in Minnesota, where he worked his way through the University, with a number of jobs from stockyard worker to editor. Upon his graduation, he began to work on the Kansas City Call, a major black newspaper. He became active in the NAACP there and was secretary of the local city chapter. Recognized for his leadership qualities, he became the assistant executive secretary of the national NAACP under Walter White, and soon succeeded W. E. B. Du Bois as editor of Crisis, the major organization publication. He was a consultant to the War Department during the Second World War and served with Du Bois and White as advisers at the 1945 San Francisco conference that founded the United Nations. He continued to lecture and write, and upon the death of White in 1955, he was appointed executive secretary of the organization he had seen grow to 1300 branches and chapters and a quarter-million members.

During his own stewardship, the NAACP reaffirmed its profound commitment to the democratic process and integration, condemning separatism and violence. He served in the administration of Lyndon Johnson as an adviser, and he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil honor. The Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1965 were strongly supported by Wilkins and his NAACP. He retired in 1977, covered with honors, and was succeeded by Benjamin Hooks.

The John F. Kennedy Library contains digital copies of correspondence between the White House and Mr. Wilkins.

 

 

 

Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr.

Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr.

Oil, about 1970, 51 x 37 inches

In Congress, he was an active liberal with a creative program to advance equal rights, one of the first in the Capitol to recognize the need for a strong bill of civil rights for blacks. Beyond Congress, he helped to write a strong civil rights plank into the platform of the Democratic party. He supported the Peace Corps, urban renewal, aid to health and education, and many other causes as senator, and from 1965 to 1969, as the vice president of the United States during the Great Society administration of Lyndon Johnson. His attempt to succeed Johnson in the election campaign of 1968 failed, and he turned for a time to teaching at Macalester College, and at the University of Minnesota.

In 1970, he was returned to the Senate, where he continued his liberal campaigns. He earned the name of the Happy Warrior, and he was happiest when he was charging toward another liberal goal. The great federal programs in the area of civil rights from 1949 to the late 1970s owe more to him than to anyone else. Among his books are The Cause is Mankind: A Liberal Program for Modern America (1964), and his autobiography is The Education of a Public Man, of 1976.

A more extensive biography of Hubert Humphrey can be found on the Encyclopedia Americana web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Oil, 1970, 35 x 28 inches

Rosa Parks, seamstress and symbol, was born in Tuskegee in 1913 as Rosa McCauley, and attended Alabama State College. She married Raymond Parks in 1932, and was active in the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, serving as secretary and youth adviser from 1943 to 1956. She came to the notice of the world when in 1955 she refused to yield her seat in the white section on a Montgomery bus. She was promptly arrested, and this led to a boycott of the city bus system organized by two local ministers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy. Their newly organized Montgomery Improvement Association oversaw the year-long boycott that ended segregation in the bus system.

Since that time she has gained many honors including the Springarn Medal of the NAACP in 1979, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Award, the Service Award of Ebony, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolent Peace Prize. She has ten honorary degrees including one awarded by Shaw College in Detroit, where she has worked as secretary and receptionist in the office of Congressman John J. Conyers, Jr.

Part of the citation for her Mount Holyoke degree reads, 'When you led, you had no way of knowing if anyone would follow." In 1984, she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Woman of Courage Award. In 1990 her seventy-seventh birthday was held at the Kennedy Center with three thousand black leaders, government officials, and others celebrating her life.

For more information about Rosa Parks, visit Grandtimes.com.

 

 

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi

Oil, about 1980, 28 x 40 inches

Martin Luther King, Jr., clergyman, was born in 1929 in Atlanta where he was brought up, and he entered Morehouse College at the age of fifteen. There he fell under the good influence of Benjamin Mays. He was ordained in his father's Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1947, and received his bachelor's degree in sociology the next year. He then went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he was student body president and valedictorian of his graduating class. He went on to Boston University for his doctorate, received in 1955. It was there that he studied deeply the nonviolent resistance beliefs of Gandhi and others and settled upon a philosophy to guide his life.

He took a pulpit in Montgomery, where he came to early fame as an organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott. He became the national spokesman for the nonviolent wing of the civil rights movement and an organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1959, he joined his father as co-pastor in Atlanta.

He traveled and lectured widely and spent some time in the Birmingham jail following a series of nonviolent demonstrations. He was one of the leaders of the 1963 March on Washington, where at the Lincoln Memorial he delivered his memorable "I Have a Dream" speech. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He led the Memphis to Jackson March that followed the murder of James Meredith. In March 1968, he proposed the Poor People's March on Washington, but the next month he was shot by an assassin and died in the hospital. The manner of his death led to the outbreak of riots in over a hundred cities in America.

He is remembered through his writings and the many studies about him and in manifold other ways. Those studies agree that it was the adoption of the passive resistance and nonviolent protest approach of Gandhi that gave leadership to King throughout his civil rights career, adding conviction to his eloquence.

The Seattle Times has an excellent comprehensive site about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact he had on our society.

For a good history of Mohandas K. Gandhi, visit wikipedia.org.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oil, 1964 - 1985, 96 x 84 inches

 

The Seattle Times has an excellent comprehensive site about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the impact he had on our society.

 

Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

Oil, 1980, 38 x 31 inches

Whitney Moore Young, Jr., executive, was born in 1921 in Kentucky, where he graduated from Kentucky State College. He took his Master's degree in 1947 at the University of Minnesota. Degree in hand, he joined the staff of the Urban League of Saint Paul, Minnesota, as the director of industrial relations and vocational guidance programs. Three years later he became executive director of the Urban League in Omaha, where he was also on the faculty of the School of Social Work at the University of Nebraska.

During the fifties he also taught at Creighton University and at Atlanta University. In 1960 he held a Rockefeller Foundation grant that gave him a postgraduate year at Harvard University, and this leave was followed by appointment in 1961 as the executive director of the National Urban League. He was a strong force for good in that important position, and in 1963 he was one of the organizers of the March on Washington. A book of his essays entitled To Be Equal was published in 1964 and throughout the 1960s he continued his work. In 1971 that work took him to Lagos, Nigeria, to a conference sponsored by the African-American Association, where he died at fifty years of age. Under his leadership the National Urban League had grown to have about a hundred affiliate organizations in over thirty states.

 

The Armed Forces Information Services has an interesting article about Whitney Moore Young, Jr. on their web site.

 

 

Ralph David Abernathy

Ralph David Abernathy

Oil, 1964, 30 x 24 inches

Ralph David Abernathy, clergyman, was born in Alabama in 1926, and received his bachelor's degree from Alabama State College, after having served in the Army during the Second World War. He did his graduate work at Atlanta University, and became a minister in Montgomery, where he had as a colleague Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1955, he organized the Montgomery Improvement Association, and a short time later, he and King became known nationally because of their leadership of the successful bus boycott. It was then that they organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, soon the nation's leading advocate of nonviolence, resisted strenuously by militant factions. Upon King's death, Abernathy succeeded him as president.

He organized the Poor People's Campaign in Washington where Resurrection City was built, a group of huts in the center of the nation's capital. He was jailed for twenty days for refusing to obey the police order to remove the huts. He went on to organize the SCLC Operation Breadbasket, to exert financial pressure against companies that had poor records in extending equal opportunities to blacks. In 1961 he had become pastor of an Atlanta church and his honors came to include honorary degrees from such institutions as Long Island University, Alabama State University, Morehouse College, and Kalamazoo College. His autobiography is And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, published in 1989.

Wikipedia has a short biography of Abernathy.

LexisNexis shows some of the organizational materials from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

 

 

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Oil, 1968, 30 x 24 inches

Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 37th president of the United State, was as dedicated and aggressive a politician that ever rose to prominence in America.  His early years growing up on a farm in Stonewall, Texas, were spent in poverty.  From that experience, sprang a lifelong empathy for the poor and the disadvantaged.  His political career officially began in 1937 as Texas state representative.  In 1949, he was elected United States senator and served until 1961, holding the posts of Senate Majority Whip and Senate Majority Leader.  Johnson was selected to be Kennedy’ running mate in the 1960.

After Kennedy’s tragic assassination in 1963, LBJ became president and embarked on designing and implementing what he called the “Great Society.”  During his Presidency, he pushed for and signed legislation that created Medicare, the War on Poverty, Medicaid, an increase of public funding for education, public television, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 among many other accomplishments.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed most forms of racial segregation, and was signed on July 2, 1964.  The National Voting Rights Act outlawed voting discrimination, and was instrumental in allowing millions of blacks to vote for the first time.

Johnson also showed his strong support of civil rights with his 1967 nomination of civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall to be the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

Many of the bills he signed, in particular the Civil Rights legislation, continue to have a positive effect on America to this day.

An excellent source of additional information on President Johnson can be found at The Johnson Library Web site http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/

Detroit Riots

Detroit Riots

Acrylic, 1967, 31 x 24 inches

The riots in Detroit in the late sixties were an epiphany for the artist Robert Templeton. They came out of a long tradition of blacks in that city. Early in the nineteenth century, it was the last stop on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves heading for freedom in the part of Canada that abutted Detroit, and later the goal for waves of blacks migrating from the South for good-paying jobs in the auto industry. There they mixed with immigrants from Europe on the assembly lines and in the city, and violence broke out often, in spite of their all earning wages nearly beyond their earlier wildest dreams.

During World War II, the riot begun at Belle Isle was a terrible racial confrontation. The riot of 1967 had Twelfth Street as its epicenter with looting, setting of fires, and pitched battles with guns and knives, making the area a no- man's-land. It was here that Templeton sketched for Time, before the National Guard, numbering about ten thousand troops, was sent in by Governor Romney, and President Johnson had sent a contingent of paratroopers.

Forty-three people were killed, seven thousand were arrested, and property damage at twenty-two million dollars did not include much that was lost by those in the area that had become a charred and waterlogged and rubble-strewn disaster area. These studies by Templeton show firemen and looters and despair.

 

The LBJ library contains good background material for the riots, including an extensive report filed by Cyrus Vance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Power or Non-Violence?

Black Power or Non-Violence?

Acrylic, 1967, 72 x 48 inches

The civil rights struggles of all people throughout all time have required that the choice among contradictory philosophies and tactics be made. For blacks in America, the polarization of conflicting views began in the period before the Civil War, between those who favored gradual manumission of slaves for colonization to Africa, and those who demanded complete and immediate abolition by whatever means, violent if need be. Early in this century the accommodating views of a Booker T. Washington ran afoul of the clearly impatient demands of a W.E.B. Du Bois, and this creative tension continued through the twentieth century, and will continue.

Here, Templeton portrays this dilemma in an evocative study from the late sixties, in which the extreme factions in the struggle for civil rights are embodied in the placement and choice of images, in the dramatic use of color, and in strong graphics and type. On the left the black power impulse of such an activist as H. Rap Brown called for an uncompromising, impatient, and aggressive attitude toward injustice. Against this stands the non-violent commitment of such a leader as Martin Luther King, Jr., favoring a belief in passive protest and continuing communication and the ultimate justice of the courts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Oil, 1985, 56 x 42 inches

Malcolm X, clergyman, was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska in 1925. He spent much of his youth in foster homes and state institutions before he finished the eighth grade and left for Boston, where a half-sister lived. He became lost in a life of drugs and crime and was sentenced to ten years in prison by the time he became twenty-one. After learning to read and write while inside, he corresponded with Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Black Muslims.

By 1952, he was out on parole and speaking out about his belief that the white Christian world was intrinsically evil and dangerous, and that the only way for blacks to survive was to separate themselves from it. He adopted the name by which he is remembered, Malcolm X, and founded mosques in Philadelphia and Harlem. His increasingly radical statements led to his expulsion from the Black Muslim movement and to the formation of his own nationalist groups, the Muslim Mosque and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

He was seen by friends and foes alike as an angry young man who took pride in his controversial social views including racial separation. He considered the nonviolence advocates to be utterly wrong, and he became famous for saying so. In this way, he helped the nonviolent movement by making it appear to be a more welcome alternative for moderate blacks and whites.

By 1965, Malcolm X was becoming slightly more moderate in his own views, when he was killed in New York City by members of a rival black group. His Autobiography was published shortly after his death, and in 1992, a movie on his life was a popular success.

The official Malcolm X web site has an extensive Malcolm X biography.

 

 

The Young Blacks

The Young Blacks

Oil, 1967, 40 x 30 inches

This collective portrait of a generation that came of age in the sixties evokes the vital and conflicting spirit of those interesting years. They were portrayed here as primarily urban blacks encompassing such contradictory slogans as "Burn, Baby, Burn" and "Supercool." They expressed the optimistic idealism of youth with its attendant impatience. Although they shared youth and enthusiasm with the white hippie flower children, they saw the need to do their "own thing." The newness of that was offset by their search for their traditions through interest in the antiquity of their African origins and their history in American slavery. Their sense of oneness led them to address one another as Soul Brother or Soul Sister. The term Negro with them gave way to be replaced by the term black and the Afro haircut became a symbol of self identity.

The artist evokes this exciting period with a choice of images that include anchor fencing, mounted police, the stare of Malcolm X, the various approaches to reaching audiences with their messages, and the youthful forthrightness of the young man and woman. It was a formative time for many leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despair, Then Anger

Despair, Then Anger

Acrylic, 1968, 26 x 20 inches

Despair, Then Anger, is another Templeton image to emerge from that tense period of the late 1960s, a period that saw a decline in militancy from the middle of that decade to the middle of the 1970s. The riots of 1968 ended the belief of most that violence could achieve anything of importance, and the summers of 1969 and many that followed were "cool."

Some militant groups, among them the Black Panthers, were able for a brief moment to attract the attention of the media, but their particular messages of despair and anger were ignored generally in the black communities. They faded away. A series of Black Power Conferences pressed for going beyond the traditional goals of civil rights, and instead, gaining black control of all black affairs. But while these conferences went forward, gains were achieved beyond them. Ironically, one conference was held in a city that had a black mayor elected by blacks and whites; more followed soon in other cities. By 1972 there were enough black congressmen to make the Black Caucus an important force. Other black leaders found that the poor, both black and white, had common needs that could be addressed by such an approach as that of George Wiley and his National Welfare Rights Association. And so it continued through the seventies, and into the Reagan years and beyond. The question of despair and anger remains, still not answered but still addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Must Riots Continue?

Must Riots Continue?

Oil, 1968, 50 x 38 inches

Must Riots Continue? became a question for national attention, and President Johnson appointed a Commission on Civil Disorders with Governor Kerner of Illinois as its chairman. The report came out ahead of schedule and found that mass hysteria and great exaggeration had taken the reports out of all true proportion and created an atmosphere of mindless fear.

There were riots and disorders and they were analyzed. Most of the rioters were young men between fifteen and twenty-five, school dropouts, who had never lived anywhere but in the ghettos and were full of hostility toward the middle class, black and white. They distrusted the political system and the police who were its enforcers. These neighborhoods had crime-rates as high as thirty-five times that of some white neighborhoods, a chronic shortage of adequate health facilities with a corresponding infant mortality rate, poor trash collection that led to an alarming rate of rat-bites, and the simple compression of larger and larger numbers of blacks into already crowded ghettos. The list went on.

President Johnson accepted the Kerner Report in March 1968. The next month, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. led to another sweep of riots through more than a hundred American cities, and seventy thousand federal troops, black and white, were able to halt the rioting, for a time. The recent Los Angeles riot proves that the potential remains and will remain until the needs outlined in the Kerner Report are addressed. In the meantime we have Templeton's question still before us.

 

 

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

During the summer of 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the nation's capital became the focus for all of the individuals and groups from all over the country and all over the social spectrum-not just those characterized by Jesse Jackson as "the poor, the rejected, the despised"- who wanted to express their support for solidarity. This combination of Templeton's images captures that variety in the multiple figures gathered around the Solidarity Day placard with earnest black and white faces, the intense dignity of the seated older woman with tears glistening behind her glasses, a solid symbol of the anonymous millions deeply affected by the moment.

The third image is a generation apart from her, and far from anonymous, even as he stood in the crowds. Bill Cosby, entertainer and actor, was born in 1937 in Philadelphia, where he took a B.A. at Temple University. His M.A. and Ed.D. degrees come from the University of Massachusetts. He served in the Navy from 1956 to 1960 and became a costar of I Spy from 1965 to 1968 and the Bill Cosby Show from 1969 to 1973. He has released a number of records and has appeared in many films. He was star and producer of the stunningly popular The Cosby Show. For his professional work he has received eight Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, and the NAACP Image Award, and other honors continue to come to him. He has been a board member and chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation, a committed supporter of UNCF, and an NAACP life member involved in Operation Push. His books include The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert; Fatherhood; published in 1986; Time Flies, 1988; and Love and Marriage, 1989. Solidarity's spirit drew many together then and it endures today.

Robert Chase from George Mason University has written an excellent essay putting Solidarity Day in a broader historical context.

 

Black Panther Trial

Black Panther Trial

Pastel, 1971

Robert G. Seale, Black Panther known better as Bobby, was born in 1936 in Dallas and grew up in California. He served for three years in the Air Force and then attended Merritt College where he met Huey Newton, with whom he founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in the mid-1960s. In 1969, he was indicted in Chicago with others for having conspired to disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention there. The trial in Judge Julius Hoffman's court saw him as a bound and gagged defendant, and he became a national sensation for having taken the lead in the inflammatory language and behavior that led the judge to separate his case from that of the others, declaring an individual mistrial, and sentencing him to four years in prison for his unmistakable contempt of court. Earlier in 1969, in New Haven, Connecticut, he had been arrested and charged with the crime of murder of a man alleged to be a member of the Black Panthers who was an informer.

Robert Templeton was commissioned by CBS News to make sketches during that trial and these are some of the results, two sketches of Seale and a scattering of sketches of the courtroom and its people. Seale wrote about his life in Seize the Time published in 1971, and it describes those days when the Panthers were "the vanguard of the North American revolution movement."

Bobby Seale

Pastel, 1971 28 x 28 Inches

 

Eldridge Cleaver

Eldridge Cleaver

26 x 36 inches, Oil, 1970

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver, one of the original members of the Black Panther Party, was born in 1935 in Wabbaseka, Arkansas, and he grew up in California. He spent time in prison as a youth, and in 1958, at the age of 23, was sent to prison after being convicted of assault with intent to kill. He was paroled in 1966 after serving 8 years of a 14 year sentence. While in prison, he penned Soul on Ice, a series of essays outlining his views on racism in America. After he was paroled, Cleaver joined the newly-formed Black Panther Party, along with Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. Cleaver became the group's Information Minister, serving as spokesman.

In 1968, Cleaver was involved in a shooting with police in Oakland. Fearing conviction, he fled the county and spent seven years in Algeria, Cuba and France. He returned to the US in 1975, renounced the Black Panther Party and was placed on probation for the earlier shooting. Cleaver underwent a political transformation, becoming a born-again Christian, and embracing anti-communism. As he reinvented himself, he ran for the 1986 Republican Senateseat in California.

Templeton's unique portrait is framed by a torn screen, representing the barriers which were torn down by the Black Panther Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eighty Years in The Black Civil Rights Movement

Eighty Years in The Black Civl Rights Movement

Oil, charcoal, etc., 58 x 50 inches

The unifying theme of this multiple image is the hourglass that contains the many faces of the movement. Those of the formative years in the bottom half of the hourglass include Douglass, Washington, Ovington, and Du Bois among the individual portraits created by Templeton for this exhibition and it also includes others, black and white, who were active in the earlier days of the civil rights movement. At the neck of the hourglass is the image of the young minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., being taken away by white policemen from one or another of his nonviolent protests, likely to spend some time in jail as a consequence. In the upper chamber of the hourglass are the figures of the latter half of the twentieth century, drawn from Templeton's individual portraits of Mays and Wilkins and Abernathy and McGill and Malcolm X and Whitney Young and Rosa Parks. The young blacks of the sixties are there also, the new generation ready to accept the challenges that their predecessors had faced and fought.

This image of the hourglass with its unstoppable flow of individual grains of sand, or people as here, brings to mind the shared concern of Benjamin Mays and Robert Templeton that the appropriate title and fitting theme of this exhibition be "Lest We Forget." This collection helps us to become more determined that we shall not forget, for the artist and his subjects deserve to be remembered for all of their separate efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Ten Years on the World Wide Web