Civil Rights Art

Watch This Video
Windows Media


Pamela Chatterton-Purdy has loved art since she was a child, but two major events have shaped her recent work. One was 9/11, when she made a series of icons searching for the presence of God in a tragic event. Now, she’s using her personal experiences of the civil rights movement to bring that struggle out of the pages of history books. Kim Riemland reports.     

 New Items | Additional Stories | Archives


(Locator: Cape Cod, Massachusetts)

As with any artist, there is more heart than hand in this work, inspired by dark days in the civil rights struggle.

Pamela Chatteron-Purdy, Artist: “You wouldn’t stone an animal and kill it. Why would anybody stone a black person and kill them?”

After marching hand-in-hand with African Americans in the ‘60s, Cape Cod artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy adopted an African-American son and another child of Vietnamese and African-American descent … and learned firsthand about discrimination.

Pamela Chatterton-Purdy, Artist: “We had people that told us that we were bringing incest into the family because we had now a black son. Martin Luther King and so many martyrs lost their lives just struggling for their constitutional right to have a full life like most Americans.”

Now works in wood and gold leaf memorialize 16 people and events critical to the civil rights movement.

Artist shows icon: “Children’s crusade, Birmingham, Alabama. Over one thousand children jailed.”

This lifelong United Methodist sees the icons as windows to the soul. They are on view in the Boston state house, schools and churches.

The Rev. Wesley Williams, Orleans United Methodist: “It’s a perfect fusion of art and information. This needs to be seen.”

Ruth Bournazian/Member, Orleans United Methodist Church: “It certainly brings you back to a very sad time in our history. Hopefully, one that will never happen again.”

Dan Freitis, Cape Cod Resident: “I sense the holiness of what they portray. And the struggle of a people to be free.”

Pancheta Peterson, Cape Cod Resident: “Those who forget the past are bound to repeat it. We are already being resegregated in housing and in education. Perhaps this will jolt us back to reality.”


To view the full civil rights icon collection online or for more information about the artist and upcoming exhibits, you can visit her Web site at or call 508-430-1422.

Also, see: Artist creates icons of the civil rights movement