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I AM MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960 - 1970

Words and Images Courtesy of the Portsmouth Museums

The 1960-1970 decade was a momentous time for the civil rights movement in the American South. It was a historic decade that unleashed both hopes for the future and profound change as public spaces were desegregated and as African Americans secured their right to vote. IAM A MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1970 displays a wide range of photographs taken by amateurs, local photojournalists, and internationally known photographers. Together they provide a vivid visual story of the evolution of civil rights and shed light on the movement’s integration into daily living in the American South. I AM A MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1970 opens on April 8th, 2023, at the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center.

Southern folklorist, author, and curator William Ferris and his research team sought out photos taken in the heat of the civil rights movement, by activists or local news photographers, who documented history taking place before their eyes. Viewers of the exhibition will recognize the photographs of protestors who carried signs with messages like “I AM A MAN” or sat at segregated lunch counters as iconic images associated with the movement, while numerous other photographs presented in the exhibition have rarely been seen until now. Key events include James Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi, Ku Klux Klan gatherings, the Selma Montgomery March in Alabama, the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Martin Luther King’s funeral, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Mule Train. The decade was a pivotal moment that both marks change, and also reminds us how far we have to go. The photographs in I AM A Man: Civil Rights Photographs in the American South, 1960-1970 remind us of their enduring resonance today and beyond as future generations continue to fight for justice for all humankind.

This exhibition has been adapted from an exhibition, originally produced for the Pavilion in Montpellier France, by the Center for Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The French exhibition was funded by the City of Montpellier and administered by Gilles Mora, director of the Pavilion Populaire.

Exhibition: I AM A MAN: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1960-1970

Host Organization: Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center

Runs: April 8 – May 27, 2023

Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Location: 400 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704-3622

Admission: $3.00 for ages adults, $2.00 for ages 2-17, seniors, AAA, and military with I.D.

Contact: 757-393-8543,

Additional Programming:


Presented by Dr. Charles Ford of Norfolk State University

Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center

Saturday, April 15, 2023

1:30 p.m., free and open to the public

Reception: following

Target audience: All ages

Dr. Charles H. Ford is a Professor of History and Interim Dean at Norfolk State University. He serves as the director of the Quality Enhancement Plan at N.S.U. and chairs the History Department. Dr. Ford will give a free presentation on the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Hampton Roads, VA, during the 1960s and 1970s.

This program is in conjunction with the exhibit I Am A Man: Civil Rights Photographs in the American South, 1960-1970. Dr. Ford was recognized with the ‘University Professor Award’ at Norfolk State University in 2014, the highest honor that the University can bestow on a faculty member. He was named one of Equality Virginia's ‘Outstanding Virginians’ in 2016 and currently serves on several non-profit and civic boards, as a Trustee for the Norfolk Public Library System, Director for Hampton Roads Pride, and President of the Norfolk Chamber Consort's Board. For more information, visit | or call 757-393-8543.

About Exhibits USA

The exhibition is toured by Exhibits USA, a national program of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Exhibits USA sends more than twenty-five exhibitions on tour to over 100 small-and mid-sized communities every year. These exhibitions create access to an array of arts and humanities experiences, nurture the understanding of diverse cultures and art forms, and encourage the expanding depth and breadth of cultural life in local communities. For more about Exhibits USA email or visit

About Mid-America Arts Alliance

Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. Additional information about M-AAA is available at

About the Curator

William Reynolds Ferris was born and raised in an anti-segregationist family on a farm in Mississippi. He taught as an assistant professor in the English Department at Jackson State University (1970-72), associate professor in the Afro-American and American Studies Programs at Yale University (1972-79), professor of anthropology, and founding director of the Center for Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi (1979-97), and as professor of history and Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2002-17), where he is now the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History Emeritus. The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1997-2001), Ferris co-edited the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (1989), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 2019, his Voices of Mississippi project received two GRAMMY Awards. Other honors include the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities, the American Library Association’s Dartmouth medal, the Mississippi Institute of the Arts and Letters Award, the W.C. Handy Blues Award, and the Mississippi Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.

About the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center

The Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, one of five of the City of Portsmouth Museums, is devoted to providing high-quality educational and cultural experiences in the arts and humanities through changing exhibitions, programs, lectures, classes, and performances. The Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center, housed in a historic courthouse building, is centrally located in the hub of the arts and cultural district of Olde Towne Portsmouth.

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