April 4th, 2018, marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. To commemorate this, and more particularly his work advancing civil rights through non-violence and civil disobedience, Adams Dubrovna has put together an exhibit entitled Martin Luther King, which is now on display at the Museum of Sacred and Narrative Art.
Across 32 display panels, Adams traces key points in Dr. King’s life, starting with an examination of his education, and concluding with his final public appearance on April 3rd, 1968 at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), at which he gave his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address.
In 1954 Dr. King became pastor of the Dexter Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. In March 1955, Claudette Colvin – a fifteen-year-old black schoolgirl in Montgomery – refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in violation of Jim Crow laws, local laws in the Southern United States that enforced racial segregation. King was on the committee for the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case – but a decision was made not to pursue it, as it involved a minor.
Then, in December that year, Rosa Parks also refused to give up her seat, and was arrested for “civil disobedience”. The NAACP, working through their local chapter president Edgar Nixon, saw Parks as the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge on the matter of segregation, and she so and Dr. King become central figures in the American civil rights movement, starting with the Montgomery bus boycott.
This – together with the bombing of King’s home on January 27th, 1956 (he was preaching at the time) and his own arrest (the first of many) – mark the starting point for the exhibition tracing his civil rights activism. The panels the trace the key moments in his life and the civil rights movement in chronological order, many of them using Dr. King’s own words. These include the Albany Movement, the Birmingham campaign, the 1963 march on Washington DC, and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches.
Also marked is the King’s place on the international stage (through a look at their visit to India in 1959 and his opposition to the Việt Nam war). Many of the panels include Dr. King’s own words, making them particularly poignant, particularly the excerpt of his April 3rd, 1968 address at the Mason Temple. This reads as prophetic in light of the events that followed on April 4th, 1968. Wisely, the exhibition doesn’t unduly dwell on Dr. King’s death at the hand of James Earl Ray, but rather passes on to some of the monuments erected in his memory in the United States.
On the floor above Martin Luther King is an exhibition of images and plans of the Ellora caves, one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, India. It features Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600-1000 CE period.
The exhibition focuses on the latter two: Hindu and Jain temples and art, referred to as caves 13–29 and caves 30–34, respectively. It’s something of a mixed media exhibit, featuring photographs, slide shows and information boards / givers. The Hindu caves form the first part of the exhibit located at the top of the steps from the Martin Luther Exhibition. It is centre on a pair of large format photographs of the Kailasa Temple.
There is a route around this display – commencing with the early Hindu period, then the Kailasa Temple images, complete with floor plans, and on through the Jian caves and art. The information note cards provide a fair amount of information, although the information buttons on the slide shows might be a little confusing – they provide a landmark to the in-world store for the slide show panels rather than information on the images they display.
For those looking for an exhibition or two with a historical lean, Martin Luther King and the Ellora Caves display could be well worth a visit. The former nicely compacts Dr. King’s life into an easily digestible presentation and avoids reading as preaching. The Ellora Caves display offers some excellent images of the caves, art and temple ruins, although it would be nice to have some form of credit offered for them – even if they are from the exhibitor’s own collection – would add a little more depth for those wishing to do further reading.
- Martin Luther King (Museum of Sacred and Narrative Art, Mugunghwa, rated: Moderate)