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LBJ's condolence letter to Coretta Scott King goes on display

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To commemorate King's birthday and Black History Month, library staff coupled the letter exhibit with an inspirational art collection, Brian Washington's "The Continual Struggle." The charcoal art work documents the Civil Rights movement and America's struggle against segregation and race-based disenfranchisement.

"He did the epic artwork as if he was there," said Roy Spence, Co-Founder and Chairman of GSD&M Advertising.

Spence helped bring the collection to the library. He has known Washington for years because the artist went to college with his daughter.  

"Brian went to Duke, so did my daughter. He became a lawyer, a brilliant lawyer," said Spence. "One day, about eight years ago, he comes to my home with my daughter and shows me this artwork," Spence recalled. "And I went 'Brian, where did you get this?' And all he did was touch his heart. And I said 'What?' He said, 'I did this.' I went, 'You're an artist?' No one knew."

Spence said part of what makes Washington's art so amazing is how he captures moments in history that he himself didn't witness. Washington is only 35. 

"He's pretty much a genius and a historian. He went back and studied all the facts of the matter during the movement so he could bring to life the heart of the matter," said Spence. 

Spence was such a fan of Washington's work that he hung the piece "Get on the Bus" in his home. President Bill Clinton, who is friends with Spence, was also touched by the piece and has it hanging in his personal office in Harlem, New York.

"The Continual Struggle is a collection of masterful art, a poignant depiction of America's journey toward a more perfect union, and a remarkable contribution to America's discussion of the issues it confronts," Clinton said of why the artwork is significant.

"I was surprised when I saw this, his passion for this line of work," said Washington's father Al. "When I look at his art, I can feel the spirituality. As his father and growing up in a segregated world, and his mother also, Brian was educated in several different places and the only thing he got during his education was about the heroes of the movement, which was Martin Luther King. And he knew there was this. So what he's tried to do here was educate people on, that the simple people, the everyday working people...ordinary people doing extra ordinary things. These people played an important role. Some people lost their life, some people went to jail. Brian grasped that early and so what he attempted to do here is bring those people to the forefront. Educate people his age about 'hey, this is not an overnight process,' there's people that died."

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