Photographer captures sites of civil rights violence - WSMV News 4

Photographer captures sites of civil rights violence

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Much of the fight for civil rights in this country took place nearly 50 years ago. For many young people, the dramatic stories from that time exist only in a history book.

One young Nashville woman wants to change that.

Jessica Ingram went to Hillsboro High School, where she learned to love photography. Combined with her passion for history and social justice, her photos on display at the Tennessee State Museum is all about the 1960s and the fight for civil rights.

When Ingram visited the Montgomery, AL, court square, she read the sign about its slave market history.

“Then I started to wonder, what if this marker wasn’t here and I’d walked by? How would I understand the importance of this site,” she said.

Without the markers, Ingram wondered if anyone would know of the murders, bombings and race-related violence.

Ingram took her camera on a 10-year haunted road trip.

“Sometimes when I’m driving up to a site, I imagine the killers driving up to it,” she said. “You feel it.”

Ingram visited and photographed the sites in Mississippi where Emmett Till and Medgar Evers were killed.

“A lot of the stories are people who are active in the community, are incredibly inspiring in terms of what they knew they were in the face of,” Ingram said. “They acted anyway, in courageous ways. Those are great stories.”

At the Tennessee State Museum, Ingram’s photographs show her journey to 45 lesser-known sites of civil rights violence.

“It can be a difficult experience,” Ingram said. “Conversations about race and people willing to engage.”

The museum features an audio tour with memories from the survivors who lived through those times.

Fifty years later, Ingram said she hopes others live it by learning it.

“I also hope they get curious about history, what they’ve learned, why they learned it, and maybe what they didn’t learn,” she said.

Ingram will lead a Black History Month panel at the Tennessee State Museum on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Nashville civil rights figure Carrie Gentry and her son, former Vice Mayor Harold Gentry, will also participate.

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