Origins1839 - 1900
Instrumental 1839 - 2020
We the People1900 - 1950
Justice for All1950-2000
Digital Democracy2000 - 2022
The Democratic Lens scholarly discussion series includes lectures, interviews, and essays, that examine how images have shaped America’s collective memory and inspired individuals to participate in civic life.
A fundamental principle of democracy is the active participation of people in civic life. The Democratic Lens will portray photography’s role in propelling civic actions by sharing images and stories about mobilized communities who actively work together towards a more just and democratic society. This discourse will address the historical and contemporary relationship between photography and civic engagement in the U.S. through pivotal moments in history like the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, 9/11, and rural poverty during the Great Depression that helped to shape America’s cultural landscape.
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The programs include free and open-to-the-public programs and content in 2022-23. Subscribe and stay tuned for more content as we unfold this discussion series.
View and download CENTER’s 2023 Program Guide featuring images and segments from interviews with Leigh Raiford, Ph.D., and Kim Beil, Ph.D., as well as the 2022 Program Guide featuring images and segments from interviews with Will Wilson and Shawn Michelle Smith.
The Democratic Lens lecture series will include six sections, each with a corresponding humanities theme, historical era, and selection of contributing scholars. In alignment with NEH Special Initiative’s “A More Perfect Union” theme, scholars will present photographs that connect audiences to the diverse cultures, landscapes, histories, and individuals who collectively shaped the nation. The Democratic Lens will prioritize underrepresented histories to emphasize the diversity of the citizenry. We will present accounts that illustrate the challenges our country has endured and the stories of how Americans have worked together to overcome them.