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The For Freedoms billboard near Pearl, Mississippi (photo by Wyatt Gallery/For Freedoms, image courtesy For Freedoms)

The artist-led For Freedoms super PAC has erected a billboard on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi that features President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” atop a well-known Civil Rights-era photograph by Spider Martin of a confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Reactions from locals have been strong and area news station WDAM concluded: “If their mission was to stimulate conversation in a state with a racial history like Mississippi, they have and some of that conversation is angry.”

WMCActionNews reached out to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who called the billboard reprehensible. “It’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country,” he told the news station.

Hyperallergic spoke to Eric Gottesman of For Freedoms to understand the group’s choice of image and location. He explained:

As part of a billboard campaign initiated by For Freedoms in October, we placed billboards in Pearl, Mississippi, and several other sites around the country. Our hope was to spark dialogue about our collective civic responsibility to push for freedom and justice today, as those before us pushed for freedom and justice in their time through peaceful protest and political participation.

Interestingly, Pearl became a town in 1968 after its citizens voted to incorporate. The billboards in Pearl at that time encouraged citizens to vote for incorporation with the slogan ‘Think about it …’. We can’t imagine a better slogan for how we want people to react to our billboards.

We hope all who see our billboards think about them, talk about them, protest them, and let us and each other know their feelings. Only this will lead to a greater America.

Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers spoke with Marty Elrod, the general manager of Lamar advertising, which controls the ad space, and told WDAM that they agreed to take it down early next week.

The reactions on social media appear to be dominated by anger:

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

2 replies on “Mississippi Governor Decries Billboard by Artist-Led Super PAC”

  1. Funny how some of the people against these billboards see them as “dividing the nation” but saw none of trump’s hateful rhetoric as being divisive. The billboard depicts a real moment in American history with a slogan used by a clueless man who doesn’t seem to understand that those times weren’t so great for everyone. People need to be reminded of that before they go off into their fantasy land about a great America that was not, is not and has yet to be as great as it could be. The billboard is presenting a shameful truth about America that many people want to deny.

  2. I love it when American protest groups not only ARE right, but also GET IT right. This is perfect.

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