Civil Rights / Cold War
CW/CRM Other Protest Justice CW/CRM Other Protests Harlem House Girl CW/CRM Other Protest Ernest Withers

Read more about Ernest Withers, a Memphis photographer who photographed many of the Civil Rights events.

Ernest Withers, who was born in Memphis, became the iconic photographer of the Civil Rights movement and life in the segregated South.
He had worked as a photographer while serving with the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he opened a photography studio in Memphis. He began photographing scenes in the South, including important people and events in the Civil Rights movement.
Withers took photographs at the trial of the men charged with killing Emmett Till, a black teenager killed for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi; the funeral of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was killed in 1963; and the nine black students who first integrated a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
Another photographer said that Withers “was often the first or only photographer to capture momentous events as they unfolded, long before the national press became interested.”
Withers also took many photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including ones of him riding a bus in Montgomery, Alabama; resting after a march in 1966; and King’s funeral. His photograph of Memphis sanitation workers holding the “I Am a Man” signs became a well-known depiction of the movement.
Withers was also interested in the Beale Street music scene and photographed B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and others at the clubs there. He also photographed the last years of the Negro Baseball League.

Picture Credits:
  • Ernest Withers, Panopticon Galleries
  • A photograph showing a tired young African American sleeping against a column with a sign labeled "Justice" beside him.  The photograph was taken by Ernest Withers.  Photograph courtesy of Panopticon Galleries.  It may not be reproduced without their permission.
  • A photograph by Ernest Withers titled "Harlem House Girl, Beale Street" dated 1950s.  Withers also documented the music scene in Memphis, especially on Beale Street.  Courtesy Panopicon Galleries.  This image may not be reproduced without Panopicon's permission.

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