National African American History Museum curator on George Floyd protest photo Aaron Bryant curates photography at the National Museum of African American History and Culture Smithsonian's collection. He spoke with NPR about the collection and a 2020 photo he believes is iconic.

National African American History Museum curator on George Floyd protest photo

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AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Aaron Bryant thinks about Black history in February and the rest of the year. He's a curator at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. And he recently shared his thoughts with us about some images in the Smithsonian's collection, including one in particular taken in 2020 during a George Floyd protest in Los Angeles.

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AARON BRYANT: Tommy Oliver is a filmmaker out in LA. He caught this photograph of Hollywood Boulevard. He's at the very front of this protest. It's almost like a stage, but it's actually the back of a truck. And he's standing behind the speaker, the person who's addressing a crowd. And he takes this photograph. And Hollywood Boulevard is packed shoulder to shoulder - or even ear to ear, really - full of people who have come out to demonstrate against police brutality and what happened to George Floyd. And not only do you see a crowd that looks more like a sea of just various colors from the clothing they're wearing, this crowd extends over a mile down Hollywood Boulevard.

Now, what's really powerful about this photograph is the fact that, one, it's got to be one of the largest protests, you know, in the history of Los Angeles, at least in contemporary times. But also the fact that this is happening during the pandemic and that people felt so strongly about what happened to George Floyd that they put on their mask, and they went out to protest, almost like they were willing to risk their own lives or their own health and safety to raise their voices.

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RASCOE: Aaron Bryant is curator of visual culture at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. You can see that photo from Hollywood Boulevard along with others at npr.org.

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