“Passing the Torch: Documenting the 21st Century Ku Klux Klan,” an exhibit of photographs by Southern Miss graduate James Edward Bates, will appear April 18 to May 30 at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Cook Library.
Bates, who was inducted into the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame in November of 2010, has been pursing the project for more than 13 years.
“Many people believe the KKK has died off, or that it’s a relic from the 1960s,” Bates said. “But it exists in the 21st Century, and I think it’s important that people have the opportunity to see the photos and to talk about what they mean.” Bates will speak to students in classes from a variety of disciplines while the exhibit is on display.
“The exhibit represents an excellent opportunity for the community to address difficult issues,” said Curtis Austin, professor of history and the director of the Center for Black Studies, one of several offices on campus that is sponsoring the exhibit. “The fact that the KKK and other hate groups continue to exist in America is obviously very disturbing, and the need to discuss these issues remains as important as ever.”
The exhibit is also sponsored by the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, University Libraries, the College of Arts and Letters, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage, and the departments of anthropology and sociology, communication studies, history and political science and international development and affairs.
Bates has exhibited the work in England, France and Scotland, but never in the United States.
“Obviously, this is a sensitive subject, and I’ve run into plenty of resistance from editors and gallery owners who aren’t exactly eager to pursue this project,” Bates said. “I’m pleased that my alma mater has agreed to put on the exhibit.”
Chris Campbell, director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, said that Bates’ work on the KKK project was instrumental to his selection for the Southern Miss Mass Communication and Journalism Hall of Fame in November of 2010. “The faculty was very impressed with the work and believes that it represents an opportunity to generate important conversations,” he said. “We’re excited to have the exhibit coming to campus, and we were especially heartened to find widespread support for the exhibit and for the dialogue from across the university.”
The exhibit will be in Cook Library Room 105-A, next to Starbuck’s. It is free and open to the public and can be viewed Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday at 6 p.m.