Jacqueline Clay

Equally Present

Remembering Gong and Martha Lum at the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum.

A black teenager looks into a segregated soda shop where two ponytailed white girls sip their drinks and smile. In a courtroom, an elderly black man sits under a Thomas Jefferson quote inscribed on the wall: “Equal and exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion.” It’s not clear if he is a defendant or a witness. He is certainly not a juror or a judge. These are historical dioramas at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), in Birmingham, AL, and regardless of race, each figure is painted a stark ashen white temporarily flattening any specific racial differentiation.