Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated figures in American history. His remarkable tenacity and ability to speak truth to power have echoed and inspired thousands throughout the generations. To celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the New Jersey State Museum has announced a new exhibit honoring one of Dr. King’s most iconic moments.

In a limited-time-only display, the New Jersey State Museum honors the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail with the “I Cannot Sit Idly By 60 Years Since Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” exhibit. From April 1 through June 4, New Jersey State Museum will feature four prints by artist Ben Shahn that reflect Dr. King’s ideas in his letter.

On April 16, 1963, while imprisoned for participating in nonviolent demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. authored an open letter. This document was penned in response to a public statement of concern over his message and methods, issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. In the letter, Dr. King tackles each claim in the statement and outlines the value of nonviolent campaigns against racial injustice. The underlying ethos of the letter is that commitment to order over justice will never bring about necessary social change, and each person is responsible for acting according to their conscience.

Two years after issuing the letter, artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) and Time magazine used artist Ben Shahn’s portrait of the Civil Rights leader for their March 19, 1965 cover. Shahn was an advocate himself, known as one of the most prolific socially-engaged artists of the 20th century. Over his expansive career, Shahn captured moments from the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, and more. He was deeply concerned with the fight for racial equity and deeply admired Dr. King. Shahn’s works powerfully capture this moment and are undoubtedly the perfect accompaniment for this letter. In addition to this exhibit, the New Jersey State Museum featured several of Shahn’s works in their American Perspectives gallery on the Museum’s second floor.

This profound exhibit is brought to you by the New Jersey State Museum team. NJSM is devoted to bringing cultural experiences and encounters to the people of New Jersey through compelling exhibits, educational events, and more. The New Jersey State Museum encompasses three buildings, including a state-of-the-art Planetarium. In addition, it has over 2 million artifacts in Archaeology/Ethnography, Cultural History, Fine Art, and Natural History collections. If you’d like to learn more about all the NJSM offers, you can check out their website here: Home – NJSM.

This exhibit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness one of history’s most profound moments up close. If you have any questions before attending, please get in touch with the NJSM at NJSM.Info@sos.nj.gov for additional details. Do not miss the chance to witness history firsthand; plan to visit the New Jersey State Museum today.

This photo released by Sotheby’s shows a copy of “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a collection of papers showing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final revisions to his enduring essay. (AP Photos/Sothebys) / OUTTAKe 0615

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