NJ State Museum commemorates 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail with Mini Exhibition

Above: NJ State Museum commemorates 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail  Photo Credit: Contributed. 

Newsroom Post: TRENTON, NJ:

Trenton, NJ  – To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, the New Jersey State Museum will exhibit four prints by artist Ben Shahn that reflect ideas King put forth in his letter. The mini exhibition, “I Cannot Sit Idly By: 60 Years Since Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” will be on view now through June 4, 2023 near the Museum’s main entrance on the first floor. 

 

On April 16, 1963, while imprisoned for participating in nonviolent demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned an open letter in response to a public statement of concern over his message and methods issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. In the letter, Dr. King addresses each claim put forth in the statement and outlines the value of nonviolent campaigns against racial injustice. His underpinning message is that devotion to order over justice will never bring about necessary social change, and each person is responsible for acting according to their own conscience.

 

Approximately two years after Dr. King published the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Time magazine used artist Ben Shahn’s portrait of the Civil Rights leader for their March 19, 1965 cover. Shahn (1898–1969) was among the most prominent socially engaged American artists of the 20thcentury, tackling social and political issues from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement. An admirer of Dr. King, and a strong advocate in the fight for racial equity, Shahn was deeply committed to art that revealed the injustice in the lives of marginalized and persecuted people.

The Museum holds a large number of works by Shahn; three other prints are on view in the American Perspectives gallery on the Museum’s second floor.

 

The New Jersey State Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 9:00 am to 4:45 pm. General admission is free. For additional information visit www.statemuseum.nj.gov.

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