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Past Exhibitions


Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tennessee, March 28, 1968 by Ernest Withers

“A Fire That No Water Could Put Out”: Civil Rights Photography

November 4, 2017–April 29, 2018

This installation of over forty photographs examines the history and legacy of the civil rights movement. Iconic prints drawn from the High Museum’s celebrated collection demonstrate the power and potency of photography during that significant era, while contemporary works point to the ongoing struggle for equal rights.

Banner Image Above:
Ernest Withers (American 1922-2007)
Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tennessee, March 28, 1968, 1968
Gelatin silver print
Purchase with funds from the Director’s Circle, 2002.24.1


Explore our interactive timeline featuring civil rights photographs from 1956–1967.

Click on an image below to learn more.


Taking its title from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech before his assassination in 1968, “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out” reflects on the fiftieth anniversary of this tumultuous year in American history. Following his death in Memphis, Dr. King’s enormous funeral procession through Atlanta took over the city’s streets with thousands of heartbroken Americans who gathered to celebrate his life and legacy. While his assassination is often described as the closing bookend on the civil rights movement, activism across the intervening fifty years has proven that the movement for racial equality and justice in the United States is not a finished story.

Through some of the most powerful images from the High’s significant collection of civil rights photography, this installation underscores how photography can chronicle and even shape history. Historical works, including several recent acquisitions, are juxtaposed with contemporary photographs that speak to the past’s reverberations into the present and future. The installation is arranged into three sections: the era of Dr. King’s leadership, the year of his death, and contemporary reflections on the civil rights movement’s enduring legacy. These artworks demonstrate the wide range of artistic responses to the movement, from photojournalism to conceptualism, from tender portraits to charged landscapes.

Organization and Support

This exhibition is made possible by

Premier Exhibition Series Partner

Exhibition Series Sponsors

Premier Exhibition Series Supporters
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation, The Antinori Foundation, Ann and Tom Cousins, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Jane and Hicks Lanier, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
Barbara and Ron Balser, Corporate Environments, Peggy Foreman, James F. Kelly Charitable Trust, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, The Lubo Fund, Margot and Danny McCaul, Joyce and Henry Schwob

Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Howell Exhibition Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund