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Smithsonian’s ‘Men of Change’ Exhibit Opens in Birmingham on Sept. 16

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The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a Smithsonian affiliate, will collaborate with the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch to share “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth” beginning Sept. 16 through Dec. 2, 2023.

The exhibition from the Smithsonian presents the narrative of a nation through the profiles of significant African American men who are icons in the country’s historical and cultural landscape. Birmingham will be the final stop on a 10-city national tour.

Created by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), “Men of Change” is made possible through the support of Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford.

“Men of Change” highlights revolutionary men—including Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. Du Bois and Kendrick Lamar—whose journeys have altered the history and culture of the country through politics, sports, science, entertainment, business and religion.

Each biography is paired with original artwork by a noted contemporary artist that accentuates the subjects’ individual legacies while examining broader themes of masculinity, Black identity, community tradition and more. For a list of the featured “Men of Change” and artists, visit menofchange.si.edu.

“The BCRI is excited to host this dynamic exhibition, which brings into focus the many contributions of men of color and their undeniable impact on our country and culture. What drew me most to this powerful exhibit is the intergenerational and interdisciplinary focus, which reminds us how powerful an individual can be when they align their purpose and passion. It is an honor for us to present this experience in partnership with the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch, and we celebrate SITES and Ford Fund for believing in Birmingham. We join in tribute of “Men of Change” as we preserve the legacy of our own great men of change like Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, Bishop Calvin Woods, and many others,” stated President and CEO of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, DeJuana Thompson.

“We hope that by experiencing ‘Men of Change’ visitors will see a lesson for us all, regardless of gender, race or nationality,” said Myriam Springuel, director of SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations. “In these men we see an absolute ideal and a well of inspiration that encourages us to become our best selves.”

The portraits are on view at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. They present the “Men of Change” through a diversity of art forms from assemblage and sculpture to painting and video art. Featured artists include Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Robert Pruitt, Devan Shimoyama, Mario Moore, SISSÒN, Shaun Leonardo and Hank Willis-Thomas.

The exhibition’s core content resides at the Library’s Central Branch and delves into the themes of storytellers, myth-breakers, fathering, community, imagining, loving and catalysts. “Men of Change” is a collage of stunning imagery, excerpts from literature, historical quotes, lyrics and poetry.

A diverse group of artists, advisors, academics, curators and museum professionals determined the men chosen as “Men of Change.” From Carter G. Woodson to Ryan Coogler, these men have changed entire fields, fought for justice, revolutionized art and touched millions of lives directly and indirectly. These men serve as metaphor for the best of the American ideals, representing the many more men and the broader community that shaped them into important change agents. “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” also incorporates the names and language of others—men and women—that signify the power of the African American journey in the American story.

“Ford and the Smithsonian have a shared commitment to honoring people and achievements that reflect America’s diverse culture,” said Mary Culler, president, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Ford Fund is proud to bring ‘Men of Change’ to Birmingham to help showcase the legacies of African American men who have changed the world for the better.”

A private opening reception will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16 and will culminate a week of public programming commemorating our historic civil rights history of 1963.

For more information on the “Men of Change” exhibit, visit the website, www.menofchange.si.edu/. For media and marketing-related inquiries, contact Brittani Martin, VP of Digital Marketing at One Degree Marketing | brittani@onedegreemmm.co

Updated at 10:19 a.m. on 9/13/2023 to correct the date