Photo credit:”Empowering a New Generation” by DAVID SHEN; European Pressphoto Agency; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


FROM: Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College

CONTACT: Harold Holzer (212) 396-6535

Human Rights Photo Exhibition Opens at Roosevelt House

(FEBRUARY 14, 2017)—The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College announced today the opening of a new exhibition: “Our Rights, Our Freedoms, Always: Celebrating Human Rights Through the Camera Lens.” The display of 29 large, high-quality color photographs from the European Pressphoto Agency vividly illustrates the principles in the International Bill of Rights, and depicts the perils still facing refugees who seek—in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt—“freedom from fear.”

The photojournalism exhibition is designed to stimulate discussion and interpretation of the principles proclaimed by the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights (whose creation and passage were overseen by Eleanor Roosevelt after World War II), as well as the two treaties that codified that Declaration into international law: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The two covenants were adopted by the UN General Assembly 50 years ago, in December 1966. The Declaration and the two Covenants together comprise the International Bill of Rights.

The exhibition was organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and was previously exhibited in December 2015 at the Palais des Nations, the Geneva headquarters of the UN. The display at Roosevelt House, which was initiated by Lawrence Moss, the Rita Hauser Director of its Human Rights Program, and installed by Historian/Curator Deborah Gardner, will be its only showing in North America. The exhibition runs through April 8.

“As the former home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt House is an especially resonant location for this exhibition,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “In her capacity as the first Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Mrs. Roosevelt’s leadership proved critical in creating the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Moreover, some of the initial drafting sessions took place at the Bronx campus of our own Hunter College in the spring of 1946. Even before the ‘First Lady of the World’ expanded her efforts for world peace and freedom in a Hunter setting, she and the President had made sure that their former New York City home became part of the college—and a continuing source of education, inspiration, and enlightenment for our students, faculty, and the broader community we serve. I think both Franklin and Eleanor would be proud to see these vivid images adorning the walls of their home—reminding us anew that reaching the goals of FDR’s Four Freedoms remains a daunting but crucial task.”

Eleanor Roosevelt holding a copy of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights adopted by the UN December 10, 1948.

Added Harold Holzer, Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House: “One of our goals over the past two years has been to use the hallowed spaces of this historic home to reflect the hopes and dreams of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt through a growing exhibition program. Our previous shows in 2016, on women’s suffrage and presidential campaigning, have attracted 9,000 visitors, and we hope to see those numbers grow. Mounting such shows is another example of the Roosevelt House commitment to immersive programming for our community of Hunter students and lifelong learners.”

President Roosevelt had been a founder of the United Nations, and it was his evocation of “Four Freedoms” in his 1941 State of the Union Address that helped inspire both the Declaration and the subsequent Covenants.

In Roosevelt’s words: “[W]e look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

Roosevelt’s later, 1944 call for a “Second Bill of Rights” elaborated on his “Freedom from Want” pledge and formed the basis for the economic and social rights principles in both the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The United States did not formally act on the Covenants until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter signed them. The U.S. has ratified only the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (in 1992). Roosevelt House celebrated the 50th anniversary of both Covenants with an appraisal by leading scholars on December 15, 2016. Video of the event is available on our website.

The exhibition at Roosevelt House, 47-49 East 65th Street, between Madison & Park Avenues, is open to the public from 10 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday, and during all Roosevelt House evening events. To make reservations, please consult the website.

Viewing and discussing the exhibition will be an integral part of undergraduate human rights courses this semester at Roosevelt House. In addition, the House has launched a series of related student and public programs, including: a panel on strategies for protecting refugee rights, featuring the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center; “Book Publishing and Human Rights: What’s Ahead in Perilous Times” featuring Robert L. Bernstein, founder of Human Rights Watch; and “Watching Western Sahara: Human Rights and Press Freedom in the Last Colony in Africa,” a panel discussion featuring Saharawi media activists providing up-to-date documentation of activism and abuse in Western Sahara. On April 6, Roosevelt House will present a related program with Geoffrey Stone, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, discussing his new book, Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century. More events will be announced soon.

Photo credit: “All Faith has a Place” by FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA; European Pressphoto Agency; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.