A Lens for Freedom: Civil Rights Photographs by Steve Schapiro

A Lens for Freedom Exhibition Aug 25-Dec 10, 2022

About the Exhibition

 The Miami University Art Museum has for many years taken a proactive role in developing and presenting exhibitions that focus on social and racial justice. So did Steve Schapiro, the acclaimed photographer and photojournalist who documented many iconic moments during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Schapiro was here in Oxford in June 1964 on assignment for Life magazine, on the grounds of the former Western College for Women, the land on which this museum stands.

During one week in Oxford in June 1964, Schapiro photographed the training of approximately 800 volunteers for the Mississippi Freedom Project. More commonly known as Freedom Summer, the historic event launched efforts to register Black voters, and to set up Freedom Schools and Freedom Community Centers in Mississippi and other neighboring deep South states. After the first of two weeks of training in Oxford, Schapiro traveled to Mississippi where he photographed the work of the Freedom Summer volunteers and coordinators. Schapiro was there with cameras in hand photographing the highs and lows of Freedom Summer. He took photographs of volunteers helping discuss voter registration with poor, rural Blacks, and White librarians reading to and teaching Black children. Schapiro was also there to witness the retrieval of the charred remains of the car that carried Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman from Oxford to Meridian, Mississippi. The three slain civil rights workers, whose bodies were found two months later, were murdered by members of the KKK. Shaken, but undeterred, Schapiro continued documenting Freedom Summer activities in Mississippi.

Schapiro’s civil rights photographic work began in 1963 with his photo essay of writer and speaker James Baldwin. In addition to his work documenting Freedom Summer, he is best known for his photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, John Lewis and countless others who fought and died for racial justice in America. Schapiro would continue photographing civil rights activities throughout his life almost until his passing in January 2022.

A Lens for Freedom, consisting of 17 photographs and 3 contact sheets from MUAM’s permanent collection, is organized in association with the 2022 Cincinnati-based FotoFocus Biennial theme, World Record. This exhibition and associated programming is supported with a grant from FotoFocus as part of the FotoFocus Biennial 2022, and generous support of Richard and Susan Momeyer. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Steve Schapiro.
Images by Steve Schapiro: (at left) Freedom Now, 1964; (above right) We Shall Overcome, 1964; (far right) Civil Rights Worker’s Station Wagon, Philadelphia, Mississippi, 1964.

Exhibition graphics by Macey Chamberlin, Communication Design student.

Open Aug 25-Dec 10, 2022
Tue–Fri 10 AM–5 PM | Sat 12–5 PM | 2nd Wed 10 AM-8 PM


Related Programming

SAT | SEP 10 | Open House & Training for Freedom Film

Noon-5 PM - Open House

2-3:30 PM - Training for Freedom Film (PBS Documentary), followed by Q&A

2-4 PM - Drop-in Tours 

Join us for an open house with refreshments and activities as well as a film screening in our auditorium of the 2022 PBS Documentary, Training for Freedom (27 mins.) The film presents the history and personal stories of those who came together in Oxford, OH, as they prepared to help register Black voters in the deep South during the historic 1964 Freedom Summer campaign. Q&A follows from Miami University Archivist Jacqueline Johnson and Freedom Summer ‘64 trainee and activist and Miami University Professor Emeritus Richard Momeyer.

WED | SEP 14 | 5-7 PM

Freedom! Talk and music

Join us for an insightful and powerful talk and music by Professor Tammy Kernodle, followed by acapella music by Miami University Gospel Singers (MUGS). Join if you wish in the student-led acapella songs in the McKie Gallery.

WED | SEP 21 | 5-7 PM

Points of View: Searching, Finding, Seeing. - Photographer Mark Clennon:

Seeing Mark Clennon’s photographs and hearing the stories behind his images will offer a contemporary lens into the world of Civil Rights activities. Clennon has been photographing Civil Rights protests over the past few years, including important protests in NYC following the 2020 murder of George Floyd. As a contemporary photographer, Clennon will bridge today’s movement with the historic 1964 Freedom Summer Program as documented by Steve Schapiro. Mark Clennon’s contemporary Civil Rights photographs of the Black Lives Matter Movement will provide an important context for the importance of the image as social documentation.
Sponsored by Richard and Susan Momeyer and FotoFocus.

WED | OCT 5 | 12 PM Noontime Chatter with Staff at MUAM [Virtual]

Finding Freedom Summer Traveling Panel Project

Hosted by Collections Manager & Registrar Laura Stewart with guests: Jacqueline Johnson, Stephanie Danker, Kimberly Hoffman, Zack Tucker and Alia Levar Wegner.



All Programs are FREE & OPEN TO ALL.