Rosalind Fox Solomon – Liberty Theater
Liberty Theater is a vivid exploration of race, class and segregation in the American South. The book takes its title from the only cinema in Chattanooga, Tennessee that was open to people of colour in the early 1960s. Spanning the 1970s–1990s, the project began on the lawns of the Scottsboro Courthouse in Alabama where, in an historic case of injustice, seven young men of colour were falsely accused of rape and sentenced to jail for the better part of their lives. The courthouse served as a haunting backdrop to a monthly market at which Fox Solomon found a cacophonous performance of cultural ideologies and fantasies. In her acutely symbolic book, we find KKK badges, muskets, fake wigs, church attire and china dolls among preachers, landowners, and labourers.
Journeying from Alabama to Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina, Fox Solomon continued to build a body of photographs which, as Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa writes in his essay, ‘moves with effervescent grace from rebel musket to trophy wife, from linoleum square to yard sale, from clown to church to carnival, tracing a circuitous route through seven Stand Your Ground states’. Following her itinerant movement, at times the pictures in Liberty Theater allude to positive changes in race relations that have occurred since the Civil Rights Act. However, the world that Fox Solomon depicts speaks to a legacy of discrimination that has become increasingly apparent in the United States today: one of class and gender divisions, implied and overt racism, and competing notions of liberty.