Children of Cardozo…Tell It Like It Is


Washington DC Public Schools




Washington, D.C.



When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the Cardozo neighborhood in Washington D.C. boiled over into violence and fires that lasted for days. In the weeks and months following, the D.C. Public Schools’ experimental Innovation Team invited elementary school students to document their feelings and experiences as a way of processing the pain and destruction around them.

The nonprofit Education Development Center (EDC), a partner in the school program, produced a series of publications and a traveling exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution, centering the children’s experiences in their own words and images. As Art Director of the EDC, Michael oversaw the exhibit design, relying heavily on what he playfully coined his Sand Boxes, lightweight and interchangeable cardboard boxes with artwork and interpretive text mounted directly on their surfaces. He would use the technique for many exhibitions, including an exhibition of Sister Corita Kent’s graphic poster art.

From the exhibit’s interpretive text:

“These dramatic paintings and statements of the Cardozo area of Washington, D.C., are the result of a courageous invitation from their teachers to ‘tell it like it is.’ Immediate action by the Innovation team of the Model Schools, encouraged by Dr. Robert Coles of Harvard University, stimulated the teachers to try this approach as a constructive way to relieve children’s tensions following the events surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”