To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
contact us | site guide | search
Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachers
The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Theme: SegregationTheme: MigrationsTheme: ProtestTheme: CommunityTheme: Overcome?
Theme: Protest

Reginald Gammon, Freedom Now, 1963
- Reginald Gammon, Freedom Now, acrylic on board, 1963

In the early 1960s the civil rights movement drew much of its power from the sheer number of bodies it could assemble to witness against racism and injustice. In the words of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference brochure (see #2: Reasoning), "It is not enough to be intellectually dissatisfied with an evil system. The true nonviolent resister presents his physical body as an instrument to defeat the system." In the print Freedom Now, Reginald Gammon (1921-2005) depicts the massing of bodies in the name of freedom.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Gammon studied at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. He moved to New York in 1948 where he did design work for an advertising agency during the day and painted at night. In 1963, Gammon along with fourteen other artists founded Spiral, a collaborative designed to address African American issues through art. In 1965 the group held its only show, "Black and White," which featured art based on the civil rights movement, done exclusively in shades of black and white. Freedom Now was Gammon's contribution to the show, and it has become his best known work. Echoing photographs of civil rights marches, the print masses a group of faces, mouths open in song or shouts, in a rather pyramidal structure that leads the viewer to protest signs and the legs and feet of other marchers, who, significantly, appear to be children. (1 page.)

Discussion questions
  1. What effect does the massing of faces in the foreground of the print have on the viewer?
  2. What effect does Gammon achieve by opening the mouths of the marchers?
  3. We see none of the posters or the bodies of the marchers fully. What is the effect of this truncation?
  4. How does Gammon use shadow and light?
  5. How does he give the print the same sense of urgency that the title has?
  6. Compare Freedom Now with Augusta Savage's sculpture Lift Every Voice and Sing in Theme IV: COMMUNITY.

Framing Questions
  •  What forms did African American protest take?
  •  How did protest strategies and goals evolve over time?
  •  In what ways was African American identity shaped in opposition to the larger American society?

Freedom Now: 1 page
Supplemental Sites
Reginald Gammon, overview, from the University Museums of the University of Delaware

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

Image: Reginald Gammon, Freedom Now, acrylic on board, 1963. Collections of the National Afro-American Museum and Culture Center, Wilberforce, Ohio. Reproduced by permission of the Ohio Historical Society.

1. Asking   2. Reasoning   3. Singing   4. Marching
  5. Boycotting   6. Arming   7. Voting   8. Separating
  9. Connecting   10. Writing   11. Poetry   12. Theater   13. Images

TOOLBOX: The Making of African American Identity: Volume III, 1917-1968
Segregation | Migrations | Protest | Community | Overcome?

Contact Us | Site Guide | Search

Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact:
Copyright © National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: August 2007