The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College announces a major gift from donors Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg of more than 1600 press photographs that document the civil rights movement. The gift was made in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams, the civil rights pioneer and member of the class of 1968 at Pomona College. The Mattis-Hochberg photographs include wrenching scenes of resistance, inspiring acts of civil disobedience, and depictions of such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, James H. Meredith, and Myrlie Evers-Williams herself.
“It is a pleasure to continue our multi-decade collaboration with the Benton, where we know from experience that these works will be accessible to students, faculty, and visiting scholars,” said donors Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. “It is a special joy to do this in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams. The Evers family—Medgar, Charles, and Myrlie—played a foundational role in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and beyond, and are heroes of ours.”
Included in the over 1600 images gifted to the Benton is the 1967 Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph by Associated Press photographer Jack Thornell of the attempted assassination of James H. Meredith during his March Against Fear. Another highlight of the gift is the iconic press photograph of the swearing-in of former President Lyndon B. Johnson on Air Force One with former first lady Jaqueline Kennedy by Cecil Stoughton of the Associated Press.
These documentary photographs of this crucial era of American history are central to the Benton’s mission as a teaching museum. With this gift, the photographs are now accessible for study and research by students and faculty of the Claremont Colleges, as well as for outside scholars and the community at large. As the photographs have entered the collection, they have already become some of the most requested objects by Claremont Colleges classes, in subjects ranging from American studies to “Art in the Age of Protest.”
“Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg have been steadfast supporters of the Benton for decades,” said Victoria Sancho Lobis, the Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director of the Benton, “and they have contributed immeasurably to the museum’s collection. With this gift they are offering us both images of history being made as well as examples of artistic achievement, enabling us to blur the lines between the disciplines of history and art history and to reconsider the often artificial designation of ‘fine art.’ We are profoundly grateful for such a rich and multifaceted addition to our collection and for Michael and Judy’s sustained and generous support.”
The Mattis-Hochberg gift coincides with the gift by Evers-Williams of her archives and papers to Pomona College. Evers-Williams came to Claremont, California, with her three children after the 1963 assassination of her husband, NAACP leader Medgar Evers, with whom she had worked to end segregation and promote voting rights. She enrolled at Pomona College and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1968. Only two years out of Pomona, Evers-Williams ran for Congress and soon became a prominent figure in the civic life of Los Angeles and a national voice for civil rights. She became chairwoman of the NAACP in 1995 and delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2012.
The Mattis-Hochberg gift enables the Benton to realize their goal to engage in difficult discussions of systemic oppression and racism, socioeconomic disparity, and gender equality, and to amplify the voices of those who have been historically marginalized. By making these photographs publicly accessible, the Benton hopes to continue the mission of the civil rights activists depicted in them.
About the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College
Now housed in the new Benton Museum of Art designed by Machado Silvetti and Gensler, Pomona College’s collection of art numbers 18,000 objects, including Italian Renaissance paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation; works on paper, including a first edition print series by Francisco Goya given by Norton Simon; and works in various media produced in Southern California in the twentieth century. In keeping with Pomona College’s reputation as a leading center of the visual arts, the collection also includes works by such esteemed alumni as Chris Burden ’69, Marcia Hafif ’51, Helen Pashgian ’56, Peter Shelton ’73, and James Turrell ’65. Recognized globally for its commitment to contemporary art, the museum is the home of The Project Series, which has featured more than 50 contemporary Southern California artists since it began in 1999. Through its collaboration with students and faculty, the museum encourages active learning and creative exploration across all disciplines of study within the liberal arts context.