Photographs from the Memphis World, 1949-1964
An invaluable pictorial overview of African American vitality in a southern metropolis
Long considered lost, these photographs from one of Memphis's leading African American newspapers, the Memphis World, published from 1931 to 1973, chronicle the complexity and variety of its readers' lives. In marked contrast with the reporting in white newspapers, which selectively focused on poverty, violence, and civil rights protests, the World, like many black newspapers, celebrated the accomplishments and documented the challenges faced by the city's diverse population. The paper regularly published photographs by Ernest Withers, Mark Stansbury, Hooks Brothers Photography, and R. Earl Williams, among others. Behind these seemingly ordinary images, however, is evidence of the courage, dignity, and ingenuity of African Americans in the Jim Crow South.
Photographs from the Memphis World, 1949-1964 is published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. It includes essays by Marina Pacini, the museum's chief curator and exhibition curator; Deborah Willis, New York University professor and internationally recognized authority on African American photography; and Russell Wigginton, historian, Rhodes College. Each of the fifty-six photographs reproduced is elucidated by a short essay. Many of the images are accompanied by newspaper accounts or interviews with the people pictured or with their families to further explore the history of the photographs.