On the 55th anniversary of MLK’s death, the National Civil Rights Museum debuts Memphis artists’ works as the first artistic responses to his death | Business Upturn

On the 55th anniversary of MLK’s death, the National Civil Rights Museum debuts Memphis artists’ works as the first artistic responses to his death

Memphis, TN, March 28, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Waddell, Withers, and Smith: A Requiem for King is a multimedia exhibition by three Memphis-born artists opening at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, on the 55th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination at the historic site. As the first artistic reactions to the assassination, these pieces offer a unique perspective on a pivotal event in American history.

The exhibition unites the powerful creations of James M. Waddell, Jr., a Black self-taught sculptor deeply connected to the Civil Rights Movement; Ernest Withers, a renowned Black civil rights photographer whose work has documented key moments in the Movement and Black cultural life; and Dolph Smith, a mixed-media artist whose family attended the Memphis Cares tribute to King three days after the assassination as the only White family present.

Over 20 images and objects showcase the evocative works of three pioneering artists, all born and raised in Memphis, who were among the first to respond to the tragedy in their city through their art. The artists explore their lives in segregated Memphis, the military, and coping in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death. The works display the transformative power of art in the face of adversity, as these visionary artists captured the spirit of a defining moment in American history.

“This year marks the 55th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, museum Director of Interpretation, Collections, and Education. “The museum is honored to bring together three Memphis artists’ perspectives of Dr. King, his death, and the impact of the assassination on our community.”

Having the exhibition at the National Civil Rights Museum has a distinct meaning for the families of Waddell and Withers and artist Dolph Smith, now an eighty-nine-year-old living in West Tennessee.

“It was my time in the military that taught me to use my hands to convey a message,” said Smith.

“My father’s sculptures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are not just works of art,” said Gebre Waddell, the son of James Waddell. “They are a reminder of the power of activism and the importance of standing up for what’s right.”

Rosalind Withers, conservator/director of the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery reiterated, “My father’s purpose was tied to his passion. He was a man of his community.”

 Waddell, Withers, and Smith is on display at the museum until August 28, 2023 and is included with admission. For more information, visit the museum’s website.

About the National Civil Rights Museum 

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, is the only museum of its kind that gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since opening in 1991, millions from around the world have come, including 90,000 students annually. As the new public square, the Museum examines today’s global civil and human rights issues, provokes thoughtful debate, and serves as a catalyst for positive social change. 

A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized among USA Today‘s Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Named in the Top 1% of TripAdvisor Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC’s Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10 American Treasures by USA Today; Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and Top Tourist Attraction by Memphis Business Journal


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