In 1961 Bruce Davidson traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to photograph the Freedom Riders’ bus trip from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi, with blacks, whites, and state troopers who accompanied them. When they arrived in Jackson, all the riders were arrested. Experiencing first-hand systemic racism changed his life. Davidson actively participated in almost every civil rights ride and march until 1965.
In Arrest of a Demonstrator, Davidson captures the courage of this young African American woman being tightly restrained by two white police officers during a 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama. “There is no question that the civil rights photographs had a seismic effect on public opinion, as the shocking violence and prejudice they revealed were too visceral—too indisputable—to ignore."1
1Vicki Goldberg, Bruce Davidson: an illustrated biography, NY: Magnum Foundation, 2016, pg. 70.
In 1961 Bruce Davidson traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to photograph the Freedom Riders’ bus trip from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi with blacks, whites, and state troopers who accompanied them. When they arrived in Jackson, all the riders were arrested. Encountering such systemic racism changed Davidson. He actively participated in almost every civil rights ride and march until 1965.
On August 28, 1963 Davidson documented the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. In this image crowds are massed around the reflecting pool in which the Washington Monument is seen. King's inspiring speech called for civic and economic freedom for African Americans and an end to racism.
In 2013 Shirin Neshat created a series of portraits in Egypt that explored the country in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. This project was supported by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Ghada and Sayed are two works in the series entitled Our House is on Fire. "The closeup portraits harness what Neshat refers to as the 'power in human expression,' in which the individual gaze creates a connection between viewer and subject, between personal narrative and the collective human experience," noted Heather Russell.
In December 2015 the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation donated these two limited-edition prints to the Penn Art Collection and thirty-two other colleges and universities around the world, with the goal of encouraging dialogue about these challenging international issues.