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Clarence V. Reynolds
Center for Black Literature
Center for Black Literature
Harry Belafonte Offers Opening Remarks at the Preview of “Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein”
Actor, civil rights activist and humanitarian Harry Belafonte drew a round of applause after he delivered opening remarks at the preview of the exhibit “Freedom Journey 1965: Photographs of the Selma to Montgomery March by Stephen Somerstein,” which was held at the New-York Historical Society, Thursday evening January 15, 2015 (170 Central Park West (at Richard Gilder Way; 77th Street, New York, NY 10024). More than 175 guests attended the event that served as a fund-raiser for the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. The program was in partnership with the New-York Historical Society, and Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the NYHS, welcomed the guests to the exhibition and cocktail reception.
Ernest Tollerson, interim president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation then introduced Mr. Belafonte. “I’ve been on a bit of whirlwind tour around the United States. … Many young people want to know what was essentially different today than what existed at the time of the march from Selma to Montgomery,” Mr. Belafonte began. “In many ways a lot has changed and in many ways a lot has not changed.”
The 1960s was one of the most compelling and dramatic decades in American history. It was an era that was met with many challenges as people fought for the advancement of civil rights in America. One key moment of the Civil Rights Era was the historic 1965 march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery that helped to raise awareness of the injustices Blacks in America faced and that galvanized the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Mr. Belafonte touched on several topics in his speech such as his involvement in the march, and poverty and race relations today America and abroad. Of the exhibit, he said: “What makes this exhibit so terribly important is that it informs; the absence of information is what makes this exhibit so important.” He said that a community is in great need of information on issues that plague us. “… I hope what you see on the walls that are hanging might lead you to hunt more deeply [for information],” he said.
The exhibit features 55 photographs that document the historic Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March in 1965, where determined Blacks marched to the Alabama capital to raise awareness for civil rights and voting rights legislation. Photographer Stephen Somerstein, who was then a student at the City University of New York and photo editor of the student newspaper and went to the South to document the monumental crusade, was also in attendance at the event. “These photos still continue to move me,” Somerstein said.
For more information about the exhibit at the New-York Historical Society, go to www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/freedom-journey-1965.
About the Center for Black Literature
The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College was established in 2003 to institutionalize the National Black Writers Conference (NBWC). In addition to hosting the NBWC, the Center has a mission to provide a forum for the dissemination of knowledge about Black literature and to support Black writers and Black literature through author readings, workshops, retreats, and conferences. To achieve its mission, the Center partners with high schools, the college, and community and cultural organizations to provide literary arts to youth, college students, and the general public. The mission of the Center for Black Literature is to expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of the value of Black literature. The Center for Black Literature serves as a voice, mecca, and resource for Black writers and the general public to study the literature of people from the African Diaspora. It is the only center devoted to this in the country.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.