UofM’s Hooks Institute and the Memphis International Airport to Launch Exhibit Featuring Fayette County Civil Rights Movement Through the Photographs of Art Shay

Oct. 11, 2022 — The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis and the Memphis International Airport will co-host an exhibit featuring the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement through the photographs of freelance photographer Art Shay. The photographs will be displayed in the Departing Flights Terminal, across from the TSA office, at the Memphis International Airport from October 20, 2022-October 2023. The public will be able to view the exhibit without purchasing a ticket or going through the TSA security checkpoints.

The Memphis International Airport and the Hooks Institute will host a press conference to open the exhibit on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. in the Departing Flights Terminal at the Memphis International Airport.

“We are thrilled to present, through the photographs of Life Magazine photographer, Art Shay, the story of the Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights movement that began in 1959 when African Americans demanded the right to vote,” stated Daphene R. McFerren, Hooks Institute executive director. “The exhibit at the Memphis International Airport provides a unique opportunity to highlight the actions of civil rights activists in West Tennessee, to promote the importance of voting rights and to highlight civil rights history in West Tennessee to visitors from around the world.”

About the Exhibit

The exhibition features photographs from free-lance photographer Art Shay (1922-2018) who in March 1965 documented the Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights Movement. Shay a Chicago-based photographer, photographed the rich and famous. His photographs appeared in LIFE Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine and other publications. During the 1960s,  Shay also photographed America's landmark civil rights movement. 

The Hooks Institute extends its gratitude to Richard Shay ( the son of Art Shay), and Jeff Dembo, representatives for the estate of Art Shay for loaning this photography exhibit to the Hooks Institute. 

About the Fayette County Civil Rights Movement

Fayette County, Tennessee is located approximately 50 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee. The Fayette County, Tennessee Civil Rights Movement took place from 1959 into the early 1970s In 1959, the initial goal of that movement was to register African Americans to vote. However, when they registered many black residents, many of whom were sharecroppers on farms owned by whites, they were evicted from housing that had been homes to many families for generations.  Ultimately, many evicted families moved  on to the farms of two African American landowners, with some living in erected tents from January 1960 to April 1963. These tents became known both in the United States and internationally as “Tent City.” 

Fayette County activists entered the 1960s with an urgent civil rights agenda to desegregate public schools and public establishments; to elect officials who also represented the interest of the African American community; and to economically uplift African Americans. Federal intervention by President John F. Kennedy, the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies, and support from local and national civil rights and labor organizations aided Fayette County civil rights activists in their quest to secure basic civil rights. The Fayette County Movement remains relevant to the struggle for voting rights and civil rights today. 

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change

The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposia and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

For more information, visit memphis.edu/benhooks.