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Photoessay: A Radically Prosaic Approach to Civil Rights Images

But most of the images are optimistic and affirmative, like the portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton. They focus on the family’s everyday activities, and their resolve to get on with their lives as normally as possible, in spite of an environment that restricts and intimidates: Mrs. Thornton cradling her newborn great-grandchild (below); her son, now a father himself, on a stroll with his children; a couple filling out tax returns; a Sunday church service (Slide 7); boys fishing in a creek; a woman and her granddaughter window shopping (Slide 2); teenagers hanging out in front of a country store; and mourners at a funeral (Slide 12).

These quiet, compelling photographs elicit a reaction that Mr. Parks believed was critical to the undoing of racial prejudice: empathy.

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