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Honor Roll refers to the academic distinction usually bestowed upon students who excel at school. In the context of this 1963 canvas, however, the phrase takes on profound implications. The canvas honors the bravery of seven young African American men, women, and children who were among the first to attempt to integrate schools in the south in the early 1960s. May Stevens renders their names in childlike lettering that looks like it was carved into a tree or wet cement, in the hope that we might remember them.

Stevens, a white artist, credits her passion for civil rights in part to the friendship she and her husband developed with Charles White, the virtuosic African American draftsman whose work is on view nearby. When Stevens first exhibited this painting at a New York gallery in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. contributed a brief but powerful introduction to the catalogue that accompanied it:

The men and women who rode the Freedom Buses through
Alabama, who walked in Montgomery, who knelt in prayer
in Albany, who holds hands and sing We Shall Overcome
Someday in the face of hostile mobs—their acts cry out for
songs to be sung by them and pictures to be painted of them.