When planning exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, our historians and curators carefully select what will be displayed in the galleries, considering hundreds of possible images for each new exhibition. Because the museum’s collection is so vast, only a fraction is on view at a time. This fall, the National Portrait Gallery will unveil a special wall in our galleries, called “Recognize,” as a place to highlight one important person in our collection as chosen by friends and fans of the Portrait Gallery.
Recognize is a chance for the public to help us decide what will go on display as we continue to recognize people in the Portrait Gallery who have had a significant effect on American politics, history, and culture. Once a quarter, three people will be presented, and members of the public will be able to vote for the portrait they would like to see in that featured spot. The candidate with the most votes will be featured on the Recognize wall. Here are the biographies of our inaugural candidates, hand selected by our fantastic team of historians and curators.
Which of these three notable Americans would you like to see celebrated at the National Portrait Gallery this fall? Voting is open until 5:00 p.m. on October 23, and the selected portrait will be announced the following week and will go on display in early November.
Here are the biographies of our inaugural candidates, hand-selected by our fantastic team of historians and curators:
On October 1, 1962, James Meredith became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. His admission to “Ole Miss” was a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. Even though all public educational institutions had been ordered to desegregate following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, Meredith was refused admission based on his race. He filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination, and the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. Students and segregationists rioted on the campus in protest, and two people died in the violent clash. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent 500 U.S. marshals to the campus to maintain order, and President John F. Kennedy sent in U.S. Army troops, military police, and Mississippi’s Army National Guard. Meredith graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in political science in 1963. He went on to earn a master's degree in economics from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, as well as a law degree from Columbia University in 1968.