Annie Mae Young 'Bars' (c. 1965). Image Stephen PitkinPitkin Studio
Annie Mae Young 'Bars' (c. 1965). Image Stephen PitkinPitkin Studio

We Will Walk - Art and Resistance in the American South

Following careful consideration of the COVID-19 situation, it is with sadness that Turner Contemporary will be closed to the public from Wednesday 18 March 2020 until further notice. Visit our website to check on updates, or follow us on InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook.

If you have booked a ticket to an event organised by Turner Contemporary, we will be in touch soon or please also contact us on

We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s.

It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states. The artists represented in the exhibition lived through the Civil Rights struggle and its aftermath, often in conditions of poverty. This art is characterised by the remaking and reuse of materials through necessity, custom, culture and innovation as well as a vital connection to place and nature.

The exhibition also features Civil Rights music and documentary photographs that reveal the links between the art and its context.

Some works are in direct dialogue with this era of protest, while others evidence the longstanding impact of segregation and racial terror. Produced from the mid-20th century to the present, many of the artworks will be coming to Europe for the first time. In an era of worldwide protest on the streets, We Will Walk addresses issues of race, class and resistance through a diverse range of works developed outside of the mainstream.

Much of the work in We Will Walk draws on the tradition of the ‘Yard Show’, temporary outdoor environments made from salvaged materials. This includes the root sculptures of Bessie Harvey and Emmer Sewell’s iconic sculpture created outside her home in Marion County. The exhibition will see a series of quilts from the isolated hamlet of Gee’s Bend (known today as Boykin) in Alabama go on display in the UK for the first time. These world-famous quilts have a distinctive style, and are often made from recycling old clothing such as blue jeans. The exhibition also features guitars by Freeman Vines, including one made from the wood of an old hanging tree. These artists turned impossible circumstances into innovative artworks.

The exhibition was conceived by the artist Hannah Collins, who spent three years researching and developing the show, having encountered the work of these artists and makers in the American South. As lead curator, she is joined by curator Paul Goodwin, Professor of Contemporary Art and Urbanism at University of the Arts London, whose interest is in fugitive art practices and place.

The selected artists and makers include:

Mary Lee Bendolph; Hawkins Bolden; Beverly Buchanan; Sheila Pree Bright; Thornton Dial; William Edmondson; Ralph Griffin; Bessie Harvey; Lonnie Holley; Ronald Lockett; Joe Minter; Nellie Mae Rowe; Emmer Sewell; Mary T Smith; James Son Ford Thomas; Bill Traylor; Freeman Vines; Annie Mae Young; Dinah Young and Purvis Young.

Civil Rights Photographers include:

Bob Adelman; Morton Broffman; Doris Derby; Declan Haun; Matt Herron; James E Hinton; Danny Lyon; Charles Moore; Charmian Reading; Steve Schapiro and Ernest Withers.

"If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

– Martin Luther King

Supported by: The Henry Moore Foundation / Art Fund


Turner Contemporary

Entry Price