Artwork Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Display at the NJ State Museum for 60th Anniversary of his Letter from Birmingham Jail

In a press release, the New Jersey State Museum announced that they will exhibit four prints by artist Ben Shahn to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. The prints “reflect ideas King put forth in his letter.” The mini exhibition titled, I Cannot Sit Idly By: 60 Years Since Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, will be on view from April 1 through June 4, 2023, near the Museum’s main entrance on the first floor.

On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned an open letter in response to a public statement of concern over his message and methods issued by Alabama clergymen while imprisoned for participating in nonviolent demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama. In his letter, Dr. King addressed responded to the criticisms and demonstrated the value of nonviolent campaigns against racial injustice.

Almost two years later, Time Magazine published Ben Shahn’s portrait of the Civil Rights Leader on their March 19, 1965, cover. According to the State of New Jersey’s press release, Shahn was “among the most prominent socially engaged American artists in the 20th century, tackling social and political issues from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement.”

For more information on Ben Shahn’s art and the exhibition, click here for the press release.