This summer, the High Museum of Art will premiere “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books” (June 20–Sept. 20, 2020), an exhibition organized in collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
The exhibition is the first of its kind to delve into the events, people and themes of the civil rights movement, both celebrated and forgotten, through one of the most compelling forms of visual expression, the children’s picture book. The more than 80 artworks on view, ranging from paintings and prints to collages and drawings, will evoke the power and continuing relevance of the era that shaped American history and continues to reverberate today.
The year 2020 marks the anniversary of several key events from the civil rights movement. Sixty-five years ago, in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, Ruby Bridges integrated her New Orleans elementary school, and four black students catalyzed the sit-in movement at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
These actions and more are explored in the exhibition with titles by beloved children’s book authors and artists as well as talented newcomers. “Picture the Dream” will emphasize children’s roles as activists and tell important stories about the movement’s icons, including Parks, Bridges, Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“One of the guiding aspects of our mission is a commitment to family audiences. Through our children’s book exhibitions, we aim to help adult visitors open meaningful dialogues with the children in their lives and create memories that will last a lifetime,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “This exhibition will spark important conversations across generations about a crucial period in our nation’s history that connects directly to our city, a birthplace of the civil rights movement.”
The exhibition will be organized into three thematic sections that explore the forces that sparked the civil rights movement, its key players and events, and stories about the reemergence of activism in contemporary America. From Brown v. Board of Education and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March on Washington and Black Lives Matter, the picture books’ topics bridge the past and present, emphasizing how historical moments and leaders continue to inspire the struggle for equal rights.
“Great picture books prompt great conversations,” said Alexandra Kennedy, executive director at The Eric Carle Museum. “What better way for parents and teachers to introduce the difficult history of civil rights than through stories about the people who fought for equality? We believe the powerful illustrations in ‘Picture the Dream’ will inspire visitors of all ages to ask hard questions and look anew at issues of equality and justice.”
Books featured in the exhibition will include the following:
- “Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
- “Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
- “A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation” by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
- “If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks” written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold
- “My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Martin Luther King III, illustrated by A.G. Ford
- “Child of the Civil Rights Movement” by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón
- “I Have a Dream” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson
The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, Massachusetts, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture-book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.
“Picture the Dream” marks the High’s fifth collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the exhibition will be on view from October 18, 2020, through January 17, 2021. The exhibition is guest curated by New York Times–bestselling and Coretta Scott King Book Award-winning children’s book author Andrea Davis Pinkney. A publisher and editor at Scholastic Inc. in New York, Pinkney has written numerous celebrated fiction and non-fiction books for children and young adults.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Alliance Theatre at The Woodruff Arts Center, of which the High is also an arts partner, will present the world–premiere play “Sit-In” (June 10-July 12, 2020), based on Andrea Pinkney’s book “Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.” The publication is one of Pinkney’s many collaborations with her husband, artist Brian Pinkney. Brian is the award-winning illustrator of several beloved picture books and the son of Jerry Pinkney, who was the subject of the High’s first ever children’s picture book show in 2013. The Alliance’s production, inspired by the book, is written by Atlanta-based playwright, poet, novelist and activist Pearl Cleage and explores the role young people can play in addressing the injustices of their time.
“Working with the creative teams on this exhibition and theatrical production has underscored the power picture books have in reaching readers of all ages,” said Andrea Pinkney. “Through an immersive tapestry of images and ideas, the artwork in ‘Picture the Dream’ and the depictions in the ‘Sit-In’ play take viewers by the hand, guiding them through times of bravery and triumph. It’s an honor to collaborate in this page-to-stage experience that delivers a front-row seat to the dramatic events that continue to shape our world.”
The exhibition and play are made possible through a grant to the High from the Rich Foundation and through a grant to The Woodruff Arts Center from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation to expand programming and increase access for family audiences.
“Picture the Dream” will be presented in the special exhibition gallery on the second level of the High’s Stent Family Wing.
“Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books” is co-organized by the High Museum of Art and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Massachusetts. Major funding for this exhibition is provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation and the Rich Foundation, Inc. This exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor Delta Air Lines, Inc. and Invesco; Exhibition Series Sponsors Northside Hospital and WarnerMedia; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, and Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter Anne Cox Chambers Foundation; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters Tom and Susan Wardell and Rod Westmoreland; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Lucinda W. Bunnen, Marcia and John Donnell, W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole, Peggy Foreman, Robin and Hilton Howell, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, Margot and Danny McCaul, Joel Knox and Joan Marmo, and The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by 2020 Grandparents Circle of Support members Spring and Tom Asher, Anne Cox Chambers, Ann and Tom Cousins, Sandra and John Glover, Shearon and Taylor Glover, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, and Jane and Hicks Lanier and by Lavona Currie, Nena Griffith, Ellen and Tom Harbin, and Margaretta Taylor. Generous support is also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.