Exhibit | Jessica Ingram – Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial
Header: Jessica Ingram, Swamp, Midnight, Mississippi, 2007.
“History is written by the victors,” Walter Benjamin famously observed. History is written, and then rewritten as time goes, transformed into a new way that we can perceive the world. History is not simply a matter of evidence and facts, it is also one of presentation, of style, and a means for engaging the living mind with the past, a vital act of imagination that requires not only reason and understanding, but empathy and curiosity. It also requires a healthy skepticism, and a willingness to investigate the evidence further.
To write history, we must be willing to step in further,Jessica Ingram has done just this, with a camera and a willingness to look beyond the surface of things and treat history as a living sanctuary. Beginning in 2009, she began traveling across the American South and photographing the sites of where acts of Civil Rights atrocities, Ku klux Klan activities, and slave trade occurred. Thirty framed archival prints from the series have been collected together for “Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial” at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, NC, now through October 17, 2015.
Ingram began the project after coming across a plaque art Court Square Fountain in Montgomery, Alabama, that stood as a bureaucratic marker letting visitors know that they were standing in the former Court Square Slave Market. The plaque was ugly, and it was cold. One might even say it was cruel, as well. It detailed the dollar value of the black men, women, and children who were bought and sold, listing first names only. The Christian names of the slaveholders had all but been erased. History was being rewritten once again.
Photo: Jessica Ingram, Koinonia Farms, Americus, Georgia, 2007.
Spurned on by this casual disregard of some of the greatest acts of genocide in the United States, Ingram began to search out the sites that are sacred to the Civil Rights movement. She traveled Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, finding sites of some of horrific tragedy, many places with no marker of what had been done, what crime and act of terror had been perpetrated in the name of brutality and racism.
In Pulaski, TN, Ingram found the room where the six original members created the KKK. She visited Homochito National Forest in Meadville, MS, a site for repeated murders due to its secluded location, that has been transformed into a vacation site, complete with swimming holes, outdoor chapels, and constructed landscapes, an eerie reminder of way how easy it is to raise new generations in a climate of willful ignorance.
Photo: Jessica Ingram, Medgar Evers’ backyard, Jackson, Mississippi, 2007.
By photographing these sites, Ingram asks us to look, really look, and begin to understand that so much of the American South is hallowed ground. We know only what has been written, what has been told, and in this knowledge we become aware of all that we do not know. All the stories that have never been spoke, all the lies that have been told in their stead.
For extended captions and more of the story behind these photographs, go here.
“Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial” can be seen at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, NC, now through October 17, 2015.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.