'Road to Freedom' exhibit opening in the Bronx

March 25, 2010 3:02:56 PM PDT
A unique art exhibit opens this weekend in the Bronx that focuses on the civil rights movement. The exhibit really is unique because some of the images were captured by famous photographers, while others taken by average people who happened to be at the march on Washington in 1963. They show things that have never been seen before.

The result is a powerful collection that makes you wonder what if?

The images, which include the arrest of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and protesters getting hosed, are the building blocks of our history. It is a sobering bridge to the past.

"It had that feeling of intensity, of realness, this was the real deal," photographer Builder Levy said.

In April 1968, Levy was in Memphis covering the march when he spotted one particular group.

"I was trying to make eye contact, and I was so appreciative they didn't smile or make faces," he said. "But there was a recognition, and I was able to get this photograph."

Levy is one of more than 40 photographers taking part in a rare exhibit at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Eyewitness News got a sneak peak as crews were setting up.

"To be in a gallery, to actually interact with the photographs is huge for our community," the museum's Holly Block said.

Most visitors are under the age of 21.

The "Road to Freedom" exhibit covers the Civil Rights era from 1956 to 1968, featuring some of the most prominent leaders of that time, like an image of the Reverend Jesse Jackson heading to Memphis, reading about the assasination of Dr. King.

A story is also told through the faces, eyes and actions of everyday people.

It's the first time another Levy photo of the march on Washington in 1963 has been shown.

"You think of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and the whole freedom struggle from 350 years ago to the present," Levy said.

Levy says the photographers who witnessed these events, the bombing of a bus in Alabama in 1961, protests in Brooklyn in 1963, they knew they held a unique position and were obligated to tell this story, a story that still has no ending.

"When you see this exhibition and then listen to what's going on in the United States today, some things haven't changed," he said.

The Road to Freedom showcases 130 photographs and will also feature one-of-a-kind memorabilia. It's on a national tour and opens in the Bronx Sunday. It runs through August 11.

For more information, visit BronxMuseum.org.