The backdrop of Moving Songs features images of Eartha Kitt, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Lena Horne, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King taken by the photographers featured in the Nelson-Atkins exhibit Through the Lens: Visions of the African American Experience, 1950-70.  Gordon Parks, Roy DeCarava, Charles Moore, Bruce Davidson, and Dawoud Bey are some of the artists featured in the exhibit.  

“Take My Mother Home” is performed among a series of photos from Dawoud Bey's The Birmingham Project, a collection which symbolically commemorates the four young girls and two boys whose lives were lost on September 15, 1963, in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Toni Morrison’s poetic narration of self sacrifice for this last song becomes the voice of these innocences, mirrored by the photos of their past, present, and future selves.

As some of the youngest victims of the Civil Rights Movement, Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14) are memorialized along with Virgil Ware (13) and Johnny Robinson (16), two Birmingham boys who lost their lives as a result of the violence that followed the bombing. To create the portraits, Bey photographed girls, women, boys, and men who currently reside in Birmingham. The subjects represent the ages of the young victims at the time of their deaths, and the ages they would be were they alive today. Without specifically referencing the incidents, the project serves as a memorial to lives lost, a message of hope, and a promise for the future.  []