Out in the Streets: Democratic National Convention, Chicago 1968
Exhibition dates: August 27, 2012 – January 21, 2013
The Light Factory’s Knight Gallery (345 N. College Street)
Opening reception: Thursday, Sept. 27 from 6 to 8pm
Luminaries: Artists Behind the Viewfinder
presented by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Presenting Veteran Activist Tom Hayden & Photographer Duane Hall
Saturday, October 13 at 7 pm
UNC Charlotte Center City Building, 320 E. 9th Street
At the corner of East Ninth and Brevard in the 2nd floor auditorium
Free for students & members of The Light Factory; $5 for non-members
Tickets are available at the door, first come first served.
For more information about the Hayden & Hall lecture or the Luminaries Distinguished Lecture series, click here.
About the exhibition
The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was a momentous event and the culmination of a year that could only be described as chaotic. In late January, the Tet offensive began in Vietnam, showing that no end to the war was in sight. President Lyndon Johnson, facing a challenge in his own Democratic Party from the anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy, announced he would not run for a second term. In April, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and riots broke out in inner cities throughout the country. Bobby Kennedy, who was also a candidate for the Democratic nomination, was killed after winning the California primary in June. Two months later, the Republicans gathered in Miami and Richard Nixon, making a political comeback, was selected as their candidate. (Image credit: Protester Faces Guardsmen, Ron Pownall).
This set the stage for the DNC in Chicago. In late August, thousands of anti-war protesters—ordinary people who refused to be intimidated—traveled to the Windy City, many of them members of the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and the Youth International Party (Yippies). Mayor Richard J. Daley was fully prepared for their arrival and responded characteristically: “As long as I am mayor of this city, there’s going to be law and order in Chicago.”
For one long week, the city became a battleground as televisions across the country showed protesters, delegates, reporters, and photographers being indiscriminately beaten, tear gassed, and arrested by the Chicago police. The climate inside the International Amphitheater where the DNC was held (five miles from where the street protests took place) wasn’t any better. Delegates (who did not support Humphrey) and reporters were often roughed up by Mayor Daley’s henchmen. CBS reporters Dan Rather and Mike Wallace were both punched while trying to get interviews and thrown out of the amphitheater. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite responded by calling them “thugs.”
Out in the Streets features a selection of emotionally charged images skillfully captured on the streets and inside the amphitheater by some of the finest photographers of the day—Fred W. McDarrah, Duane Hall, Ron Pownall, Burt Glinn, Art Shay, and John Austad—all of whom were caught many times in the crossfire.
The Democrats were bitterly divided when they came to Chicago and remained so when the convention ended, especially after the anti-war peace plank was defeated and Humphrey, without entering a single primary, gained a first-ballot victory. With the party in turmoil, the Democrats lost the national election in November by a very slim margin. As a result, a special commission was appointed to reform the nomination process. Humphrey’s nomination was viewed by many as the product of the “back room” politics practiced by old-line party leaders. The commission would adopt substantial reforms and create the marathon of primaries and caucuses that we have today.