MEMPHIS.- The Memphis World, an African American newspaper published from 1931 to 1973, chronicled the complexity and variety of its readers’ lives. The paper covered politics, education, religion, social organizations, the arts, civil rights, business, and sports. In marked contrast with the reporting in white newspapers, which selectively focused on poverty, violence, and civil rights, the Memphis World, like many black newspapers, celebrated the accomplishments and documented the challenges faced by the city’s diverse population.
The articles were illustrated with photographs by Ernest C. Withers, Mark Stansbury, Hooks Brothers Photography, and R. Earl Williams, among others. The images range from expected subjects, such as business leaders breaking ground on housing developments, to women’s organizations taking disadvantaged youth to the opera. The photographs also document the everyday lives of African Americans, which were invisible to many Americans. Behind the seemingly ordinary images, however, are evidence of the courage, dignity, and ingenuity that citizens brought to bear on the living conditions in the Jim Crow South.
With a strong commitment to celebrating and preserving the cultural heritage of Memphis , the Brooks acquired a collection of over 200 photographs from the World in 2006. Chief Curator Marina Pacini enlisted Rhodes Professor of Art History David McCarthy to help lead a team of researchers to identify the photographers and subjects of the images, many of whom were unknown. The resulting exhibition, Photographs from the Memphis World, 1949-1964, is enhanced with stories told by the photographers and the people whose lives were captured by the World.
This two-part exhibition of over eighty images published in the Memphis World, which encapsulate a seminal period in Southern history, will be on view both at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from August 23, 2008 to January 5, 2009 and at Rhodes College from September 5 to October 4, 2008.