Carrying signs, holding hands, and wearing suits and dresses, nearly 250,000 people traveled from around the U.S. to converge on Washington, DC on August 28, 1963 and rally for political and civil rights. While the great gathering is best known for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Leonard Freed chose to take his iconic photographs of the marchers themselves, showing their determination, celebration, fatigue and even exasperation.
To mark the historic occasion’s recent fiftieth anniversary the acclaimed traveling photo exhibition This is the Day: Leonard Freed's Photographs of the 1963 March on Washington will be shown at the James W. Palmer Gallery in Main Building from Thursday, September 26, through Saturday, October 12. Prior to their showing at Vassar these photographs by the late documentary photographer (1929-2006) were presented at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. Palmer Gallery exhibition hours for This is the Day are Monday-Saturday from 11:00am-6:00pm, and Sunday 12:00 to 6:00 pm. The exhibit and two related events are free and open to the public.
Exhibition co-curator Paul Farber—an American Studies and Urban Studies scholar at Haverford College—will give a brief introductory talk about the show to begin a multifaceted program on September 26 at 5:00pm in the Villard Room of Main Building. A discussion led by area residents who took part in the March on Washington will follow, joined by Leonard Freed’s widow Brigitte. Poughkeepsie-based poet Bettina Gold Wilkerson will close the program with a spoken word performance, followed at 6:30pm by an opening reception for the exhibit in the Palmer Gallery.
History professor Maria Hoehn was instrumental in bringing the exhibition to Vassar, knowing how significant a moment the March of Washington was in U.S. history and that and it should be remembered and shared, all the more so on its fiftieth anniversary. “I really think it’s important for our students to be reminded of these moments,” she said.
Leonard Freed’s photography is known throughout the world, especially his photographs taken during the Civil Rights Movement between 1963 and 1965. He later traveled to Israel as a freelance photographer before returning to the U.S. Freed took images of plague victims in India, orphanages in Romania, and Pope John XXIII in Rome over the course of his career. Back home he took photographs of children playing in Harlem in the summer heat, of Martin Luther King, Jr. following his return from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and of police working their Harlem beats.
Exhibition and Events Listings
This is the Day: Leonard Freed's Photographs of the 1963 March on Washington
Thursday, September 26 – Saturday, October 12
Monday-Saturday from 11:00am-6:00pm, and Sunday 12:00 to 6:00 pm.
James W. Palmer Gallery, Main Building
Thursday, September 26, 5:00 pm
Villard Room, Main Building
Begins with a short talk by co-curator and Haverford College professor, “In Leonard Freed's Footsteps: Photography and Cultural Memory from the Berlin Wall to the March on Washington.” A panel discussion follows with local residents who participated in the March on Washington, joined by Brigitte Freed, widow of the late photographer. Poughkeepsie-based poet Bettina Gold Wilkerson will conclude with a spoken word performance.
Thursday, September 26, 6:30 pm
James W. Palmer Gallery, Main Building
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