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Ernest Withers

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Information about Ernest Withers

Profile image of Ernest Withers

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Photojournalist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Gold
Favorite Food:
Wife's Cooking
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1922
Birth Location:
Memphis, Tennessee

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Photojournalist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue, Gold
Favorite Food:
Wife's Cooking
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Home
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1922
Birth Location:
Memphis
See how Ernest Withers is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Photojournalist Ernest C. Withers was born on August 7, 1922, in Memphis, Tennessee. Withers got his start as a military photographer while serving in the South Pacific during World War II. Upon returning to a segregated Memphis after the war, Withers chose photography as his profession.

In the 1950s, Withers helped spur the movement for equal rights with a self-published photo pamphlet on the Emmitt Till murder. Over the next two decades, Withers formed close personal relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and James Meredith. Withers's pictures of key civil rights events from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the strike of Memphis sanitation workers are historic. Indeed, Withers was often the only photographer to record these scenes, many of which were not yet of interest to the mainstream press.

Withers photographed more than the southern Civil Rights Movement. Whether Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and other Negro League baseball players, or those jazz and blues musicians who frequented Memphis’ Beale Street, Withers photographed the famous and not-so famous. Withers’s collection includes pictures of early performances of Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin.

In his more than sixty-year career, Withers accumulated a collection of an estimated five million photographs; his works appeared in The New York Times, Jet, Ebony, Newsweek, and Life and were featured in touring exhibits and shows around the country. For his life’s work, Withers was elected to the Black Press Hall of Fame and received an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art.

Withers and his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Curry, raised eight children.

Ernest C. Withers passed away on Monday, October 15, 2007 at the age of eighty-five.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ernest Withers interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ernest Withers's favorites with additional comments
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ernest Withers discusses a slave ancestor's murder during the Civil War
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ernest Withers describes his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ernest Withers remembers his mother and her death when he was seven years old
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ernest Withers remembers major employers in his childhood community
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ernest Withers discusses segregated hospital care in Memphis
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ernest Withers discusses his childhood recreations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ernest Withers discusses his school life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ernest Withers describes his parents' political affiliations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ernest Withers describes himself as an average student
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ernest Withers names his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ernest Withers remembers influential figures from his school life
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ernest Withers discusses his early interest in photography
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ernest Withers discusses his days as a photographer in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ernest Withers discusses African American photographers in 1940s Memphis
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ernest Withers describes the camera equipment he used
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ernest Withers remembers the Emmett Till murder case
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ernest Withers discusses his experience covering the Emmett Till murder trial
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ernest Withers discusses covering the end of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ernest Withers discusses his career in the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ernest Withers criticizes black publications' low wages
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ernest Withers remembers James Meredith's controversial attendance at the University of Mississippi
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ernest Withers describes dangerous moments photographing the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ernest Withers remembers photographing famous musicians
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ernest Withers recalls his whereabouts at the time of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ernest Withers remembers the days preceding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ernest Withers recalls the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ernest Withers recalls Memphis funeral home viewing after Dr. King's assassination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ernest Withers discusses the origins of the National Civil Rights Museum
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ernest Withers discusses events in Memphis, Tennessee's history
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ernest Withers remembers his time as a Memphis, Tennessee police officer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ernest Withers reflects upon his achievements
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ernest Withers considers his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ernest Withers considers how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Ernest Withers's son, Clarence Earl, with Jimmy Carter, ca. 1977-1981
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Ernest Withers with his parents and adult siblings
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Ernest Withers's photograph of B.B. King and Sunbeam Mitchell
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Ernest Withers's photograph of Elvis Presley and B.B. King at the Goodwill Revue, WDIA, Memphis radio station event, 1956
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Ernest Withers with his cameras, ca. 1955-1965
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Ernest Withers's wife and daughter at a sanitation workers' strike in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968
  • Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Ernest Withers with his wife and children outside of their Memphis, Tennessee home
  • Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Ernest Withers with his brothers and their father, Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - Ernest Withers with his wife Dorothy at their fifty-ninth anniversary, ca. 1990s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Ernest Withers's sons with Elvis Presley, ca. 1955-1960
  • Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Ernest Withers in the early 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Ernest Withers with a camera, ca. 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Ernest Withers's son, Darryl, at a grave site
  • Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Ernest Withers with an unidentified man at a Northern Trust Bank event, ca. 2000
  • Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Ernest Withers speaks at a jazz event in Chicago, ca. 1990s