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Artist Honors, Immortalizes Civil Rights Movement

In shades of black and gray, ominous clouds swirl throughout almost all of artist Brian Washington's mixed charcoal pieces. They darken skies above Freedom Riders, Baptist churches and field workers.

Storm clouds have gathered again, even as the country pauses to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and its hard-won racial gains. Civil rights leaders say the Voting Rights Act is weakened. Police-community relations stressed. Disparities in earnings, employment, health, incarceration and inclusion hold back masses of African-Americans.

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Viewers have said they seen themselves or their times in Washington's work. One such supporter is former federal appeals judge Nathaniel Jones, for whom Washington clerked at the Blank Rome firm Downtown.

"As a young man who was not alive during this period, how did he capture the events and the passion?" said Jones, 90, former general counsel of the national NAACP. "He read. He saw pictures. He studied narratives. He is able to transfer that understanding onto the canvas. It is just incredible."

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"Artist Honors, Immortalizes Civil Rights Movement," by Mark Curnette was published in Cincinnati Enquirer on January 15, 2017.