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The modern civil rights movement rapidly came to prominence after World War II, coalescing around the demand to repeal Jim Crow laws and promote a vision of a just, multiracial society. The vast majority of civil rights organizations practiced assertive nonviolence to meet these goals. Nevertheless, opponents often met their activism with violence and intimidation.
Like those who marched, protested, and organized for civil rights and social justice, photojournalists put themselves in great danger. The Briscoe Center for American History’s exhibit, Struggle for Justice: Four Decades of Civil Rights Photography, which was displayed on the University of Texas at Austin campus, celebrated the legacy of those photographers. The material walked visitors through much of the civil rights era and provided a lesson both inspiring and challenging: that social progress is possible when one values it above personal comfort and safety. Now in book form, Struggle for Justice honors the photographers who were willing to put their privilege on the line to document the discrimination of others and, by doing so, helped to galvanize public support for the civil rights movement.
Don Carleton is executive director of the Briscoe Center for American History and J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of eleven books, including Red Scare, A Breed So Rare, and Conversations with Cronkite. He is also the executive producer of two PBS documentaries: When I Rise (2010) and Cactus Jack: Lone Star on Capitol Hill (2016).