The page’s main image of Aretha Franklin singing at Obama’s presidential inauguration grabbed my attention first. The scene has an aura of triumph – Mrs. Franklin’s expression, the lyrics, the hopeful faces in the background. The design leaves no questions asked about the importance and wonder of the moment, for the background is heavily detailed and the image is not confined within a panel.
The panels depicting the aftermath of the violent white mob at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery, Alabama in 1963 provide a stark contrast to the large, exuberant image that takes up most of the page. The lack of detailed background in the panels suggests that the people or body parts are the intended focus. This focus allows one to see without distractions that the violence in Montgomery was inflicted on human beings by fellow human beings. It serves as a reminder of the banality of evil – when hate infests a community, it turns average people into aggressors without reason.
I found the panel depicting a young boy staring at his hands particularly jarring. A previous page had shown that boy gouging one of the freedom rider’s eyes at the encouragement of his father. On this page, the way he stares at his hands with regret indicates he had trouble coming to terms with the violence he just committed. His expression reminds the reader that children should be too young to know hate. The masculine hand clamped on his shoulder suggests that this hate was put in place by his parents. This panel provides an understanding of how racist hatred was perpetrated generation after generation, for children were indoctrinated into a culture of violent white supremacy before they could even think for themselves.
These panel images are small, but clear and defined. They show the horrific events that were endured on the road to reaching the triumphant moment depicted in the larger image. The lyric “land where my fathers died” represent what the images convey, for it speaks of the past generations that risked and sometimes gave their lives for the cause of freedom and equality. The depiction of the hard road that led to made the large image possible shows the deep connections between the past struggles and the present. It demonstrates that the difficult past cannot be forgotten, and that moments of triumph in the present show that the fight for equality is still alive.