Marshall on the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement
KERRY JAMES MARSHALL:
The group of paintings called Mementos had to do, initially, with a requiem for the 1960s, around the Civil Rights Movement and the black liberation struggle. When John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated, a certain kind of popular commemorative souvenir came into existence and became really ubiquitous. So that those three figures came to represent all the hopes and aspirations of the— the period, of the movement, and in a sense, became like a kind of trinity, like a religious trinity, around the 1960s.
And so what I tried to do with those paintings was to— to first, extend the pantheon of people who were recognized as having contributed significantly to the 1960s, beyond the— the two Kennedys and Martin Luther King, but to include a whole host of other people who died in that period. And one of the— one of the conditions of being represented in the group of works was that you had to have died between 1959 and 1970, which were the days that bracket the 1960s.
Those people though, are the largely unsung people. They didn’t get the same level of popular commemorative souvenir that the Kennedys and Martin Luther King did. So I was trying to redress the lack of recognition that they got by putting them—including them in the pantheon of people whose contributions to the decade was meaningful as well.
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