WORD AND IMAGE: CREATING CONTEXT

No image can, by itself, change the world, for every picture depends on context: the words, circumstances, and paths of distribution that endow it with greater levels of meaning and influence. Ultimately, words, captions, and narration can enhance or direct the meaning of visual images—creating context and even changing the implication or point of view of a particular image.

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The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality, 1964
The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality, 1964
Lorraine Hansberry (author)
Danny Lyon (photographer)
The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality, 1964
Simon & Schuster, New York
10 3/4 x 16 3/4 x 3/8 in.
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.124
The first book of civil rights photography, this volume was commissioned by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A collaborative project with photographs principally by Danny Lyon and texts by the playwright Lorraine Hansberry, The Movement alternates stark black-and-white shots with eloquent words, which together testify to the heartbreaks and successes of the movement.
KKK: The Invisible Empire, 1965
KKK: The Invisible Empire, 1965
CBS News
KKK: The Invisible Empire, 1965
Courtesy CBS News Archives
This Peabody Award-winning CBS Reports documentary pairs eloquent and hard-hitting narration by correspondent Charles Kuralt with evocative footage, to produce a haunting indictment of the ideology of white supremacy in the United States.
Martin Luther King at Communist Training School, c. 1964
Martin Luther King at Communist Training School, c. 1964

White supremacists and segregationists were often adept at manipulating the meaning of photographs through the use of words and other visual cues, exemplified by this postcard showing the young Martin Luther King, Jr. attending a meeting. By labeling the event a "communist training school" and singling out King with an arrow, the postcard exploits the anticommunist fervor of the period to portray him as inherently dangerous and un-American.

Martin Luther King at Communist Training School, c. 1964
Postcard
3 1/8 x 5 5/8 in.
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2004.53
School Integration Is Racial Suicide, The White Sentinel, April 1956
School Integration Is Racial Suicide, The White Sentinel, April 1956
School Integration Is Racial Suicide, The White Sentinel, April 1956
Offset lithograph on paper
11 x 8 1/2 in.
Collection of Civil Rights Archive/CADVC-UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland, 2005.183