Civil Rights Art Piece

By Laura Roberson

One Nation Divisible

One Nation Divisible by Laura Roberson

The Elements

My art work piece was inspired by a number of famous pictures and events of the civil rights movement along with the American flag. In the right-hand corner is a portion of a banner used during protests. Signs and banners are widely seen in photographs of marches and protests during the Civil Rights Movement. The specific banner I looked at when designing this piece is from a photo of Dr. King speaking in front of a banner that reads “We Shall Overcome.”

 Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968 by Everett

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968 by Everett

 Underneath the banner in my piece is an image of a bus with smoke pouring out of it. The image is based on a picture from a movie poster about the Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders were a group of college students, black and white, who rode through the “Deep South” in 1961 to protest Jim Crow Laws. The Freedom Riders were a nonviolent protest group but they were often met with riots, weapons and attacks. The black and white students risked their lives in their protest. The photo shows the aftermath of a bus bombing during their ride (Raeburn).

 Freedom Riders Bus

Freedom Riders Bus (Figure 2)

 At the bottom of the painting is a plaque with the numbers “7053.” This plaque and these numbers are from Rosa Parks’ mug shot after being arrested for refusing to give up her seat on December 1, 1955. This served as a pivotal moment for the Civil Rights Movement. After her arrest many people began to stand up against unfair treatment nationwide. Her protest started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott was lead by Dr. King and lasted for 381 days and resulted in the integration of Montgomery buses (“Rosa”).

 Rosa Park Mug Shot

Rosa Parks’ Mug Shot (Figure 3)

 On the right side of the painting is a picture of the Lincoln Memorial over a picture of a sign for a segregated restroom. The Lincoln Memorial was the site of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28th, 1963. This is his best known speech during his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. The March on Washington and this speech served as turning points in the movement. The restroom sign serves as a reminder of the idea that people were “separate but equal.” People had the right to turn away customers for any reason they saw fit (Goode). The Fourteenth Amendment said:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Article XIV, Sect. 1)

 The Lincoln Memorial by Carol Highsmith

The Lincoln Memorial by Carol Highsmith

The police badge that is under the banner is from Greensboro, NC. Greensboro was the site of the Greensboro Four’s sit-in. On February 1 four black students from North Carolina A&T College, Ezell Blair Jr., Franklin McCain, David Richmond, and Joseph McNeil, sat down at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. After being refused service the young men sat at the counter in protest. The four stayed true to their plan of a nonviolent protest even when harassed by other costumers. The sit-in lasted for five days and within two months sit-ins had occurred in fifty-four cities in nine states (Channing 1110).

Greensboro Four by John Moebes

Greensboro Four by John Moebes


Wrapping it up

The background of the piece and the title pull the piece to a close. The title “One Nation Divisible” comes from the Pledge of Allegiance in which it says that we are “One nation, under God, indivisible.” The United States was completely shattered over the issues of integration and segregation. The protests became all-out riots and lives were lost in this fight. The background image of the flag represents the brokenness of society that looms over the image of a “united” nation.
Works Cited

Figure 2 – 2011. Photograph. Community MLK Celebration. University of Virginia. Web. <>.

Channing, Steven A., Rebecca Cerese, Cynthia Hill, and Daniel B. Smith. “February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four.” Ed. Robert A. Pratt. The Journal of American History 92.3 (2005): 1110-111. JSTOR. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Figure 3 – City of Montgomery Police Department. 1955. Photograph. All That Is Interesting. 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. <>.

Everett. Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968. 1965. Photograph. Fine Art America. 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

Goode, Victor M. “Plessy v. Ferguson.” Encyclopedia of African American Education. SAGE Publications, Inc., 15 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Highsmith, Carol M. 2006. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. 4 May 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. <>.

Raeburn, John. “Freedom Riders.” The Journal of American History 98.3 (2011): 931-34. Oxford Journals. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

“Rosa Parks Bus – The Story Behind the Bus.” Rosa Parks Bus – The Story Behind the Bus. The Henry Ford, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

U.S. Constitution. Amend. XIV, Sec. 1.

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