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Library in north Forsyth welcomes High Museums Black History program

CUMMING — A Forsyth County library will hold a presentation for Black History Month through a prestigious art Atlanta art museum.

Nina Pelaez, a Kress Museum Interpretation Fellow at the High Museum of Art, will discuss the work of Gordon Parks and Leonard Freed, both civil rights-era photographers whose work is on display at the museum.

The presentation is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Hampton Park branch. There’s no cost to attend, but advance registration is requested.

Parks and Freed were pioneers in the art of documentary photography and used their work to advance social change, particularly in the face of racial inequality, Forsyth County Public Library officials said.

Their bodies of work are “empathetic, intimate accounts of the daily life, struggles and triumphs of African-Americans living during a period of intense social struggle.”

Park’s portion of the exhibit at the High Museum focuses mainly on his photo essay for Life magazine, “The Restraints: Open and Hidden.” The article was first published in 1956 and offered a close look at a multigenerational family living in segregated Mobile, Ala.

At great risk to themselves and their family, Albert Thornton and his wife, then ages 72 and 80, allowed Parks to observe and document their life with nine children and 19 grandchildren in an effort to challenge racial inequality.

Rather than focusing on the demonstrations, boycotts and brutality that characterized the battle for racial justice, Parks captured images that illuminated the shared experiences of daily life, including preparing taxes, doing laundry, cooking dinner and attending Sunday church.

Freed’s part of the exhibit focuses on photographs from his book “Black in White America,” a collection of pictures and notes he took while traveling around New York City to attend religious gatherings, protests and other urban engagements.

He also traveled throughout the South, capturing images of jails and jazz funerals, chronicling the experience of segregation.

Like Parks, Freed chose not to offer an account of newsworthy events like demonstrations and boycotts. His book instead focuses on “sharing the nuance of African-American life during this time of great social change. His storytelling style was innovative and became influential in the development of self-directed documentary projects for photojournalists.”

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