In honor of Black History Month, 1687 is celebrating and honoring the individuals and organizations that have impacted the Black community, from Civil Rights changemakers to Metaverse movement makers. These organizations may be associated with Black history, but they’re embracing the technology and tools of the present to influence the future.
Withers Gallery: Moving into the Metaverse to Preserve the Past
Dr. Ernest C. Withers was the preeminent photographer of the Civil Rights era, capturing the lives of Civil Rights activists, entertainers, sports figures, politicians, and everyday residents of Memphis in the 1950s.
Withers captured memorable photos of civil rights icons such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and John Lewis.
He also was on hand for the moments that shaped the civil rights movement, like the 1968 I AM A MAN sanitation worker’s strike tied to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Emmett Till murder trial.
Today, the legacy of Ernest Withers continues under the watchful eye of his daughter, Rosalind Withers, and the Withers Collection, a Memphis-based museum and organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the work of Dr. Ernest C. Withers.
In order to preserve the legacy of the past, the Withers Collection has collaborated with 1687 to create an NFT-based fundraising campaign called The Withers Art Project.
The Withers Art Project takes some of Withers' most iconic images from the civil rights era and uses them as inspiration for a collection of digital art collectibles. The purchase of each NFT is recorded on the blockchain, and the proceeds benefit the Withers Collection as they continue their work to preserve and digitize the most important library of civil rights images ever created.
The Withers Collection currently has nearly 2M historic photographs from the Civil Rights era, and they’re working tirelessly to preserve and digitize these images so that we can learn from the past in order to effect change in the future.
While many may think that civil rights atrocities are far behind us as a nation, the 2023 killing of Tyre Nichols shows that our country still has an uphill path to travel in the search for equal rights. By digitizing images from the past, the Withers Collection can continue to tell stories from the past that still resonate today and influence the future.
The Withers Gallery isn’t the only civil rights organization leaning into today’s art, media, and technology to influence change.
Civil Rights Legacy Families Release NFT POAP for Till Movie
In 1955, a fourteen-year-old Black boy named Emmett Till was brutally lynched and murdered in a racially-motivated hate crime. In 2022, the Till movie was released, telling the story through the lens of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Bradley.
The Till movie was directed by Chinonye Chukwu and produced by Keith Beauchamp, Michael Reilly, and Whoopi Goldberg, and starred Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till-Bradley.
The film premiered on October 1, 2022, at the New York Film festival and then to theatrical audiences on October 14, 2022.
In honor of the Till film’s premiere, a group of civil rights “legacy families” came together to commemorate the event with an NFT POAP gifted to audience members that attended film events in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
A Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP) NFT is a digital collectible that proves someone attended an in-person event. It’s like a digital version of a keepsake ticket stub with your ownership and proof of attendance recorded permanently on the blockchain. 1687 collaborated with the legacy families to create these unique digital collectibles, with artwork inspired by people and moments in the Emmett Till murder trial created in the same artistic style as The Withers Art Project.
In addition to the Withers Collection, the civil rights legacy families behind the issuance of the Till movie POAP include:
The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation
The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation honors the memory of Emmett Till and its mission is to bring truth, justice, and healing, which can mean a full accounting of crimes committed and exhaustive investigations, to the families of victims of unsolved murders committed during the civil rights era.
The Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute
Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist and the NAACP’s first field officer in Mississippi. Evers protested against segregation in education, fought against Jim Crow laws, and launched an investigation into the Emmett Till murder. Evers himself was murdered by a white Klans member. After his death, his wife Myrlie Evers-Williams and his brother Charles became prominent civil rights activists, with Myrlie serving as chairwoman of NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
The mission of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute is to cultivate positive social change, intergenerational civic engagement, social and economic justice, and research on equity, and justice worldwide.
Why Black History Helps Us Forge a Better Future
With Black history month, we can compare past patterns with present and future patterns. When the Withers Collection seeks to preserve 2M civil rights-era photographs, it is not only to save those photos from the ravages of time. It is to keep those images fresh in our minds, to remind ourselves and others that we may have come a long way in the fight for more diversity, equality, and inclusion, but there is still a long way to go.
We celebrate and honor these historic civil rights organizations that are embracing modern technology as a way to continually pursue a more equitable future.