The struggle for civilian and political rights of the African Americans.

From the racial segregation to Martin Luther King

Realized for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King (on April 4th 1968), the exhibition “I have a dream. The struggle for civil and political rights of African Americans. From racial segregation to Martin Luther King ”  recounts the plight of blacks in the countryside and cities of the United States between the end of the American Civil War and the 1960s, focusing in particular on the events that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which put an end to all forms of legal discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, gender or origins in every aspect of public life) and the subsequent Voting Rights Act of 1965 (which restored the protection of the right to vote to all American citizens). The exhibition consists of about 200 images (digital reproductions from original prints or negative films, of which over 60 printed and the others on monitor)  mostly coming from American state archives, in particular Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration. Many of the photos shown were taken by some of the greatest US photojournalists of the time - including Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Gordon Park - engaged in documentation the US of the 1930s and 1940s on behalf of the American government, which held photography in high esteem as a tool to understand the living conditions of its citizens, in particular during the period of the Great Depression following the cracking of the 1929 . On display also a series of reproductions of rare color photos, mostly slides.


With the abolition of slavery, followed to the American civil war, new prospects open up for African Americans who begin a migration, in several waves, to the industrial cities of the north and west. They will soon discover that for them there is no place anywhere in the United States. At the end of the 1800s, after a series of constitutional rulings inspired by the concept of "equal but separate", racial segregation began, applied in every daily activity: in schools, in cinemas, in hospitals, etc. Even the possibility of exercising one's right to vote, especially in the southern states, becomes increasingly difficult, hampered by an infinite amount of bureaucratic impediments designed specifically for African Americans (but which also hinder the vote of the poorest whites). The 20s are then those of maximum expansion of the groups linked to the Ku Klux Klan. After the Second World War the struggle for integration and the right to vote took on new vigor. What made the difference was the second half of the 1950s, when a series of sentences began to demolish the apartheid system in schools. In the 1960s, with the emergence of the movement for civil rights of African Americans led by Martin Luther King, racial segregation ended and the obstacles to the free exercise of the vote of African Americans were legally removed. But the racists have their revenge: in April 1968 in fact Martin Luther King is assassinated.



Curated by:

Alessandro Luigi Perna


A production of:

Eff&Ci - Facciamo Cose (We Do Things)


Pictures of:

Library of Congress

National Archives and Records Administration

Various Archives

Access to the reserved area 

background photo of the page © Courtesy Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum