Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opens ‘Foot Soldiers’ exhibit

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opens ‘Foot Soldiers’ exhibit
Photographer Chester Higgins Jr., right, has a new exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute showing modern portraits of the civil rights foot soldiers of the '50s and '60s. (Billy Brown)

The silent heroes of Birmingham’s human rights struggles during the 1950s and ‘60s included cooks, drivers, trainers, guards, strategists and hundreds of other people from all walks of life. These “foot soldiers” who helped make possible the civil rights movement are being honored by former New York Times photographer and Alabama native Chester Higgins Jr. in a photographic exhibit called “Foot Soldiers: Profiles of Courage Then and Now.”

The exhibit fills the Odessa Woolfolk Gallery at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) through November, after which the exhibit will travel to other cities such as Memphis. The exhibit’s April 16 launch commemorated the 55th anniversary of the penning of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

“This exhibit gives praise to the Birmingham foot soldiers for making a difference when it was dangerous to do so,” Higgins said. “These portraits honor the brave, committed souls who as young teenagers exhibited a remarkable sense of character in a most difficult time in their lives and in our nation’s history. Fueled by the belief that all people are entitled to the full rights of citizenship and justice, their struggle has enriched and enhanced all our lives.”

The photographs of an older generation should strike a chord among today’s generation.

“Fine art can be a bridge between a painful history and an inspirational future,” said Andrea Taylor, BCRI president and CEO. “Chester Higgins’ artistry is transcendent, connecting new audiences today with these courageous foot soldiers of the past.”

Related Stories