These Reenactments Put a Personal Face on the History of Black Protest

By reimagining historic scenes of black struggle in Africa and around the world, artist Omar Victor Diop explores what unifies these fights for freedom.

Alabama, 1965

Voting rights supporters marching from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965 had to brave violent resistance from state troopers and white separatists. Omar Victor Diop’s re-creation preserves this historical detail: Some marchers wore garlands given by a prominent Hawaiian clergyman as a gesture of solidarity.

In depictions by Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop, the black struggle for freedom is as global as the history of protest yet as personal as each protester’s story.

It’s so personal, in fact, that Diop himself plays every male role in the photo series “Liberty,” vignettes he created based on visual and written sources in Africa and the African diaspora. The scenes, set apart by time, geography, and scope, present a vibrant, visual chronology of these consequential events.

The images in “Liberty” commemorate slave revolts, independence movements, social justice quests, and the events that sparked them. Subjects range from Queen Nanny and her brother, Quao, who rebelled against British colonialists to establish a community of former slaves in 18th-century Jamaica, to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American teen whose 2012 shooting by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.

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