R.I.P: Photographer Ernest C. Withers

This week we lost Mr. Withers (85), a relatively unrecognized photographer who documented some of the most memorable moments and people in (African-) American history.

Withers caught the photography bug during WWII where he was trained by the Army Corps of Engineers. Although he owned and operated a commercial photography studio in his native Memphis, Tennessee, Withers went on to become one of the key photojournalists covering the civil rights movement in the South and more.

Wither’s camera captured:

– the Emmett Till trial in 1955

– the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 and the enrollment of James Meredith as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962

– Dr. Martin Luther King’s assasination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968

– the Negro Baseball League players and much more…

Photography (actual silver on celluloid – before the dawn of Photoshop) has provided and still provides us with actual proof of the past.

Mr. Ernest C. Withers was a historian – using his camera to bare witness to and teach of the Black experience during a time of crucial American revolution.

May his legacy thrive in photography and American history. I hope his negatives and prints are (digitally) archived with the greatest care.

See Ernest C. Withers photographic collection at the Panopticon Gallery online.

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