Books: Non-Fiction

This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

Book – Non-fiction. Edited by Leslie G. Kelen. 2012. 256 pages.
Presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work of nine activist photographers who lived within the movement and documented its activities by focusing on the student activists and local people who together made it happen.

Time Periods: Cold War: 1945 - 1960, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements

This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement is a paradigm-shifting publication that presents the Civil Rights Movement through the work of nine activist photographers–men and women who chose to document the national struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement from within the movement. Unlike images produced by photojournalists, who covered breaking news events, these photographers lived within the movement–primarily within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) framework–and documented its activities by focusing on the student activists and local people who together made it happen.

The core of the book is a selection of 150 black-and-white photographs, representing the work of photographers Bob Adelman, George Ballis, Bob Fitch, Bob Fletcher, Matt Herron, David Prince, Herbert Randall, Maria Varela, and Tamio Wakayama. Images are grouped around four movement themes and convey SNCC’s organizing strategies, resolve in the face of violence, impact on local and national politics, and influence on the nation’s consciousness. The photographs and texts of This Light of Ours remind us that the movement was a battleground, that the battle was successfully fought by thousands of “ordinary” Americans among whom were the nation’s courageous youth, and that the movement’s moral vision and impact continue to shape our lives. [Publisher’s description by Charlie Cobb Jr.]

Edited by Leslie G. Kelen, executive director of the Center for Documentary Arts. Essays by: Julian Bond, chair of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010 and SNCC’s communications director; Matt Herron, activist photographer and owner and director of Take Stock, an organization licensing the use of movement images for scholars and the media; Clayborne Carson, professor of history and founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University; Charles E. Cobb Jr., SNCC veteran and author of On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail.

ISBN: 9781617031717 | Published by University Press of Mississippi/The Center for Documentary Arts