Forces for Change: Local Civil Rights Activists

February 6, 2015 to March 28, 2015 - 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Row 1 (top) (L to R): Bishop Tom Costello, Pete Wirth, Betty Bone Schiess, Marshall Nelson, Mary Ann Zeppetello

Row 2 (L to R): Jerry Berrigan, Ann Tussing, John Brulé, Charles Goldsmith, Kathleen Kelly (formerly Maryknoll nun Sister Rose Maureen)

Row 3 (L to R): Liz Page, Dr. William Schiess, Akosua Valerie Woods, Walt Shepperd, Judge Langston McKinney

Row 4 (L to R): Rev. Roosevelt Baums, Ella Mae Potter, Roko Sherry Chayat, Rev. LeRoy Glenn Wright, Delores Brulé

Row 5 (L to R): John Murray, Monsignor Charles Fahey, Louis Kriesberg, Dale Tussing, Mark Briggs

Read short biographical statements about each activist; use the following link:

This photography display (located in the ArtRage Gallery windows) honors our local Civil Rights Activists.  The people shown here are only a fraction of the Central New York residents involved in local and national organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. We pay tribute to their dedication, compassion, and courage as they worked, and still work, to transform our society into one of equality and justice.

In the 1960’s national attention was focused on the extreme racial discrimination in the South and many CNY residents felt compelled to travel South to lend their support to the Movement. Northern cities such as Syracuse faced challenges as well, such as housing discrimination, lack of educational opportunities, and very few African Americans employed in both the public and private sector.

One focus of activist organizing was Urban Renewal. City planners wanted high-rises and a cultural center in downtown Syracuse and to do so they would demolish the 15th ward, the predominantly black neighborhood.  In 1962, Syracuse University Professor George Wiley founded the Syracuse Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) consisting of professors, students and local residents. CORE was active in challenging the demolition of the 15th Ward, and also took on the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation who had just 20 African American employees out their16,000 employees in New York State. After protests and pickets, Niagara Mohawk agreed to change their hiring practices.

The Catholic Interracial Council (CIC) was also very active in the fight against racial discrimination. Inspired by the vision of Father Charles Brady, the CIC worked with others involved in Civil Rights issues and in 1963 organized a bus from Syracuse to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” and federal money was granted for poverty-fighting efforts around the country through the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA). Syracuse University, through the School of Social Work, created the Community Action Training Center (CATC) received federal funding from the EOA. The program was designed to train students and community members to help organize the poor to help themselves out of poverty. CATC hired Saul Alinsky, the founder of modern community organizing, to hold weekly seminars with students on organizing theory. The CATC was controversial, and local political leaders feared their success. The CATC was discontinued by Syracuse University in 1965.

Also during this time, EOA funds were given Syracuse’s Crusade for Opportunity. The Crusade for Opportunity later became P.E.A.C.E. Inc.

ArtRage Gallery is honored to recognize these local citizens who participated in movements for justice and social change.

Portraits by Bob Gates, ArtRage Gallery, Board of Directors. Bob Gates studied photography at the University of Iowa, School of Art and the Santa Fe Photography Workshops. His photographs have won numerous awards and have appeared in many group, individual, and juried exhibitions in Central New York and elsewhere.  In 2011 he completed a large scale project about people at the Centro Bus Transfer Station in downtown Syracuse, which was exhibited at Syracuse University and at ArtRage: The Norton Putter Gallery.  In 2014, his recent work was exhibited in “Six Social Photographers” at the Kirkland Art Center, “Made in New York” at the Schweinfurth Art Museum, and “Forces for Change: Local Civil Rights Activists” at ArtRage: The Norton Putter Gallery. His work has been published in PhotoLife, The Photo Review, National Geographic Traveler, Diffusion, Photographers Forum, f-stop, File Magazine, Plates to Pixels, Dossier Journal, Plank Road, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Stone Canoe, Finger Lakes Magazine, and other magazines.

Text by Kimberley McCoy, ArtRage Gallery, Community Engagement Organizer.