A controversial billboard in Mississippi that displayed an iconic image from the Civil Rights Movement alongside Donald Trump’s campaign mantra, “Make America Great Again” has been removed after stirring up anger and confusion among area residents and social network users.

The sign features the unforgettable “Two Minute Warning” photo taken by Spider Martin on March 7, 1965, in which peaceful Black protestors, including Hosea Williams and John Lewis, pause in their march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., when they are confronted by state troopers. Moments later, the non-violent demonstrators are beaten with billy clubs and attacked with tear gas in an altercation now infamously known as “Bloody Sunday.”

A controversial billboard in Mississippi that displayed an iconic image from the Civil Rights Movement alongside Donald Trump’s campaign mantra, “Make America Great Again”. (Screengrab via news video)

A controversial billboard in Mississippi that displayed an iconic image from the Civil Rights Movement alongside Donald Trump’s campaign mantra, “Make America Great Again”. (Screengrab via news video)

Reactions to the billboard, which was erected along Highway 80 near Pearl, Miss., ranged from outrage to approval—though uncertainty prevailed.

“I don’t really know what to think,” Pearl resident Madeline Nixon told CNN affiliate WLBT-TV.

“It could mean that they’re acknowledging police brutality and they want to do something about it, or it could be racist,” another unidentified resident told the TV station.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) called the ad divisive and Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers worked to see that it was removed.

On social media,  reactions ranged from Nathaniel Banks,’ “Do ya’ll see this disrespectful foolishness? I’m appalled” to Tom Ziller’s, “This billboard is pretty powerful once you realize it’s definitely not pro-Trump.”

The billboard was paid for by For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC that was formed to use art to inspire deeper political engagement, according to the group’s website. The sign was meant to provoke insightful conversation about Trump’s rhetoric and what it really means to “make America great again,” the super PAC’s founders said.

“What we hear today in some political rhetoric is that making America great means enforcing a single vision on America,” co-founder Eric Gottesman told CNN. “What we’re trying to do is use art to provoke people to talk about these things and bring them to a different kind of conversation, one that goes beyond symbolic gestures of what America is supposed to stand for.”

The billboard’s imagery and even placement—the group tried to get a spot along Highway 80 in Alabama, the route taken by the “Bloody Sunday” marchers, but no billboard spaces were available—were deliberately chosen to recall the civil rights battles of the 1950s and ‘60s, added, co-founder Hank Willis Thomas.

He told AdWeek: “Through our own investigation, all we could really think about ‘a time when America was great’, in an un-ironic way, was when the citizen heroes of the civil rights movement stood up to injustice and brutality with dignity, love, integrity and courage and forced our nation to think about its greatness and humbled institutions for a brief moment.”

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO