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Vernon Smith

Journalist and author Vern E. Smith was born Vernon Emile Smith on February 13, 1946, in Natchez, Mississippi, where he spent the majority of his youth. Smith attended San Francisco State University, where he was a member of the school’s Black Student Union and served as sports editor and columnist for the campus daily newspaper. Smith met his wife in 1967, graduated from San Francisco State University in 1969, and, soon after, attended the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

In the summer of 1969, Smith joined the staff of the Independent, Press-Telegram in Long Beach, California. Smith joined Newsweek as a correspondent in 1971 after being recruited by John L. Dotson Jr., the magazine's then Los Angeles bureau chief, the first African American to hold that title. Smith was assigned to the Detroit bureau where he learned from veteran writers Jim Jones and Jon Lowell. Smith won the Detroit Press Club Foundation’s annual magazine writing award for a Newsweek article entitled “Detroit’s Heroin Subculture,” which informed his 1974 novel The Jones Men, recommended by the The New York Times and re-published by W.W. Norton in 1998.

In 1973, Smith was transferred to Atlanta, where he covered Maynard Jackson’s campaign to become Atlanta’s first African American mayor and Hank Aaron’s ordeal as he broke Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball home run record. While in the South, Smith wrote articles about several unsolved civil rights murders and covered the trials of the Klansmen convicted in the 1963 church bombings in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little girls. In 1979, Smith became Newsweek’s Atlanta Bureau chief. In 1980, Smith covered the Atlanta Child Murders. As a reporter for Newsweek’s Special Projects Unit, Smith contributed to four cover stories that were later published as books, including “Brothers,” the true story of fellow black journalist Sylvester Monroe’s roots in Chicago’s housing projects, and “Charlie Company,” which was awarded the 1981 National Magazine Award. Smith also wrote about George Corley Wallace, the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Strom Thurmond, and the Little Rock Nine. After covering the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Smith was named a Newsweek National Correspondent in 1997.

Smith wrote numerous articles for several publications including Ebony, Crisis, GEO, The Sunday Times of London, and TV Guide. Smith also contributed to My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, published in May of 2004 as part of the Voices of Civil Rights Project.

Accession Number

A2005.182

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/2/2005 |and| 8/26/2005

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Vernon

Birth City, State, Country

Natchez

HM ID

SMI10

Favorite Season

Christmas, Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Favorite Quote

How's My Boys?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

2/13/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Author and magazine reporter Vernon Smith (1946 - ) is an award-winning journalist who has written for Newsweek and the New York Times, among many other publications.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vernon Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes where his maternal grandparents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith remembers spending time with his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his mother's childhood in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers his mother's gift for writing and the detailed letters she wrote him when he was a college student

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks briefly about his maternal aunts

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith describes his parents' first house in Natchez, Mississippi during the Depression era

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his childhood neighborhood in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes College Heights, a subdivision for black families in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes moving to College Heights in Natchez, Mississippi, and the community's demographics

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal family ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's business selling coal and ice

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandmother and lists his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes his paternal grandfather's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith recalls his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith remembers an incident that disqualified the myth of racial inferiority

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes the black professional community in Natchez, Mississippi and remembers the lynching of three African American residents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the emergence of a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his relationship with the former president of the Britton and Koontz bank in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith remembers police misconduct in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith explains the history of Natchez, Mississippi settlers, and remembers his grandfather settling an altercation involving his uncle

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about racially blended families in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes the development of his mistrust of government and the contradictions of white racism

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Prince Street Elementary School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at Sadie V. Thompson High School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the culture of education in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about racial violence and police surveillance in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the murder of Sam O'Quinn in Centreville, Mississippi and the assassination attempt made on George Metcalfe, president of Natchez NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his participation in a protest of the firebombing of a local grocery store

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith remembers discovering a neighborhood peddler had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to San Francisco, California and being admitted to San Francisco State University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about his uncle, Otis Smith, of the Otis Smith Orchestra

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes his experience at San Francisco State University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith lists influential figures in his journalism career including Leo Young and Lynn Ludlow of the San Francisco chronicle

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a copy boy for the San Francisco Chronicle

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith describes the influence of black journalist Joseph Strickland

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about covering the death of journalist Ruben Salazar for Long Beach Press-Telegram

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith remembers turning down an earlier internship opportunity at Newsweek from Bill Flynn, the San Francisco bureau chief

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Vernon Smith explains how he got to Newsweek, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Vernon Smith describes meeting his wife

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith describes his experience as a junior correspondent in the Newsweek magazine Detroit bureau

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith describes writing an article about Detroit, Michigan's heroin epidemic in 1971

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith explains how his first novel, 'The Jones Men,' was conceived

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes the recognition he received for his first novel, 'The Jones Men'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about relocating to the Newsweek bureau in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith lists black journalists that influenced him including HistoryMakers Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Paul Delaney

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of the second session of Vernon Smith's interview

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about the reorganization of the Negro Student Association into a black student union at San Francisco State University

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about the onset of the Black Power Movement and the 1966 March Against Fear

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about a basketball injury and the organization of an athlete's strike at San Francisco State University

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes his experience in the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at Columbia University, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about starting his first full-time job at Long Beach Press-Telegram, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about the migration of African Americans back to the American South

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes contemporary race relations in Georgia, and talks about the close proximity between blacks and whites the American South

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith speculates on why Atlanta, Georgia is seen as the "Black Mecca"

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about Atlanta politics, including Maynard Jackson's mayoral campaign and HistoryMaker John Lewis' Voter Education Project

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Hank Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record, pt. 3

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about speculation around Babe Ruth's racial identity and Hank Aaron's history in the Negro Leagues

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the reopening of the investigation of the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Lee P. Brown's involvement in the Atlanta child murders investigations

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about conspiracy theories surrounding the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about collaboration between Georgia's black and white communities in an effort to resolve the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith describes patterns in connection with the Atlanta child murders

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about the discovery of Wayne Williams, lead suspect in the Atlanta child murder investigation, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith describes the Atlanta child murder trial in 1982

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes Wayne Williams' sentencing in the Atlanta child murder trial 0f 1982 and talks about the reopening of Williams' case in 2005

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about the formation of Newsweek's special projects unit and its first special report, 'Charlie Company: What Vietnam Did to Us'

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about his contribution to Newsweek's special project, 'Brothers,' chronicling the lives of black men from the Robert Taylor Homes

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson's controversial anti-Semitic remarks

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about Newsweek's cover story on Afro-centric curriculums

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Spike Lee

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about Spike Lee's influence

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Mariel boatlift, pt. 2

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's appointment as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Vernon Smith talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young's meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization as UN Ambassador

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Vernon Smith talks about Jimmy Carter's presidency, including Carter's Playboy interview and relationship with Martin Luther "Daddy King," Sr.

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of Atlanta, Georgia's bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Vernon Smith describes the controversy surrounding the expansion of MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Vernon Smith talks about his coverage of the murder of Alberta King, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s mother, in 1974

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Vernon Smith describes covering James Earl Ray's escape from Brushy Mountain Prison

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Vernon Smith talks about the King family's attitude toward James Earl Ray

Tape: 11 Story: 10 - Vernon Smith talks about two murders in his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi: Ben Chester White in 1966 and NAACP treasurer Wharlest Jackson in 1967

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$6

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Vernon Smith describes writing an article about Detroit, Michigan's heroin epidemic in 1971
Vernon Smith talks about relocating to the Newsweek bureau in Atlanta, Georgia in 1973
Transcript
And I remember when I first got to Detroit [Michigan] from California, and I had this sense of Detroit, you know, the home of Motown and, and the cars and all of that, and so, but, but when I got there, the local news was full of these stories about, you know, people being found bound and gagged and you know, in a dope house. And you know, and then, then I would--you know, I had some friends there, high school friends, who had migrated to Detroit after high school in Natchez [Mississippi], and so I had kind of like a little natural kind of community there when I arrived. And you know, I would ask guys, you know, like, you know, "What is it with--you know, what are they talking about here, you know, these dope houses?" And, and, and I go into a, a, a convenience store, and you know, the entire front of the store would be like in Plexiglass (laughter). You know, what I mean? And there would be like a little window that you would put your money in, you know. And I'm like, "What is going on here?" And so, you know, I started like trying to figure out what this was all about. And I realized that there was a big heroin ep--epidemic in, in Detroit, and so, I started researching it. I sent this long story suggestion to, to the national affairs editor, the front of the book section, and it was long. And most, most story suggestions are, you know, wanna be a page or less, you know, 'cause they got a lot to read. But this stuff, I was like so taken with this subject that it was like two pages. And [Jim] Jones wasn't there. Probably if Jones had been there, it wouldn't have run that way, so--$$Right.$$--but it's running. So when Jones gets back from some meeting, you know, this story suggestion is running, and I--and Jones went to the, to the room, the teletype room where we sent copy. And he said, "What is, what's all this?" You know, he's holding, (laughter) he's holding this up, you know. He was like, "It's too late now."$$Yeah.$$It's gone. And so the next week, story suggestions went in on Friday, Thursdays and Friday, Thursdays for the back of the book; Friday's for the front of the book. So, and then, then on, on Monday the editors would meet and they'd go over all of it or Saturday probably look at 'em, and then they'd like decide what to put in the book. So, we get in Monday and I got this query from the editor of the nation saying, you know, we're planning the schedule, you know, you're great, 'Jones.' I, I called it Jones.$$Okay.$$That was, that was, that which was, which was a slang for the drug, heroin, and also the habit, you know. And actually I called it, I think I called it the, 'The Jones Men.' I did call it 'The Jones Men,' because I, I--the, the way I set the story up was, was to, I talked about it as the Jones men were, were a different kind of a new kind of ghetto gangster; you know, they're the Jones men, the men who supply the heroin to, you know, the, the junkies. And so they liked it, and they scheduled it, and then I went out and I reported it. And then it ran in, in the national affairs section. I forget the, the, the title of it. No, I know the title. It was called 'Detroit's Heroin Subculture.' And that was really like my first big national affairs story.$But I was about to say about, about my--coming back to the South, having grown up here, and when I went to work for Newsweek, I, I really wanted to stay on the West Coast, but Detroit [Michigan] was where they had the opening. And so my deal was if you go to Detroit and you work out okay, you know, when we get an opening, you can go to San Francisco [California] or L.A. [Los Angeles, California], okay. So I was thinking okay, cool. So, but while I was there, no openings, and we were ready, ready to, to leave Detroit. And so they had an opening in Atlanta [Georgia], and so this is supposed to be my weigh station, you know, back to the West Coast. But I got here in the, in the spring of '73 [1973], when the big story was Maynard Jackson's running for mayor, first black mayor of Atlanta [Georgia]. And so, you know, that was a big story and then the sort of changing South. The other story that I wrote very early was about the remigration of, of black folk to the South, you know, the generation that I had left in. This was only about a decade ago. I had left in '64 [1964]. And then by '73 [1973], you know, after the Voting Rights Act, and all these changes that had been wrought by the Civil Rights Movement, you know, a lot of people were coming back home. And so, this was a, a story, the, the sort of New South, you know. There was even talk even there, and Jimmy Carter [James Earl "Jimmy" Carter] talking about running for president in a couple of years, and you know, a lot of those stories that I knew about when I was going up there. They were still alive, and I wanted to write about that stuff. And I liked living in Atlanta. I sort of liked the, the ferment that was going on here, you know, the sort progressive kind of black community, and, and, and you know, the Maynard Jackson story was a big story. And so I thought, boy, this is a pretty good place to be a national reporter right now, you know. And so, you know, and when an opening came up, I, I really was interested in staying where I was. I liked where I was working. As I said, it was like I could drive to see my mom [Rosetta Valentine Smith], you know, in, in, in a day; you know, my brother was still down here, and so, so it was like coming back home. And so, even though I was having this success as a novelist, I was also just kind of getting into my career as a journalist. And so, people said well, I know you're gonna quit now and write books, you know, you got these rave reviews, but I, you know, I was like no, I don't wanna do that just yet. I don't, I don't think I wanna like get away from reporting, you know, I don't think I wanna go sit off by myself and like write note novels, not just yet. I think I'll still, I'll, I'll still like to do that, but reporting is really what I, I saw myself as, you know. I like going out and talking to people and getting stuff, you know. And I also like chasing the news you know, being like, there, when big, important stuff happen, you know, sort of like you either, you either like this stuff, and you realize that early on, or you, or you, or you get out of it, you know. I mean I think talent is part of it. Talent and energy is what I think, you know, 'cause you can get a lot of people that have talent.$$Right.$$If you don't have energy because, you know, being a reporter, being a, a national reporter is, is pretty demanding. There's a lot of--$$Very taxing.$$--you know, a lot of travel and stuff. But you know, it was also exciting, you know, and, and, and, and I really would go for great stretches, and then I'd be like, man, I gotta get off this treadmill. And then when I got out of it for a while, and then I was a like okay, there's nothing happening, you know, there's nothing breaking here, you know, I wanna go back and get into the saddle again, you know. And, and so, that's kind of the way it was for me, you know.

Roy Lewis

Renowned photographer and activist Roy Lewis was born on July 24, 1937 in Natchez, Mississippi. He grew up on a plantation where his father worked as a sharecropper harvesting cotton. His mother died when he was five years and old and he and was raised by his maternal grandparents. Lewis earned his high school diploma in 1956 from Sadie V. Thompson High School where he was a member of the football team and choir.

Upon graduation, he joined relatives in Chicago and landed a job in the subscription department at Johnson Publishing. In 1960, he was drafted in the United States Army and spent time at bases in Kansas, San Antonio and Houston, Texas. While a soldier, he began to develop his talent as a photographer after purchasing his first camera for just twenty-five dollars. His career as a photographer began in 1964 when Jet Magazine published his photograph of musician Thelonius Monk. In 1968, Lewis left Johnson Publishing and joined the staff at Northeastern University, filming student activities. In 1970, Lewis videotaped an exclusive interview with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, which was featured in the film A Nation of Common Sense. In 1974, Lewis, now working as a full time freelance photographer, traveled to Zaire to film the Ali-Foreman fight. This historic video would later be featured in the Hollywood film When We Were Kings, a remake of the legendary championship fight. In 1975, Lewis began work on River Road on the Mississippi, a pictorial book focusing on the African American people, life and cultural along the Mississippi River.

In 1995, Lewis published The Million Man March, a book highlighting the events of that historic day. Lewis also contributed work to the widely acclaimed 1995 photo book project, Songs of My People.

Lewis has received numerous awards for his photojournalism including, the Maurice Sorrell Lifetime Achievement Award.

Accession Number

A2004.254

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

12/9/2004

Last Name

Lewis

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Sadie V. Thomas High School

Prince Street Elementary School

St. Francis Catholic School

Brumfield High School

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Roy

Birth City, State, Country

Natchez

HM ID

LEW06

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

What's Going On?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

7/24/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Greens

Short Description

Photojournalist Roy Lewis (1937 - ) is an award winning photographer. In 1975, Lewis began work on, "River Road on the Mississippi," a pictorial book focusing on the African American people, life and cultural along the Mississippi River. Lewis also published a photo book on The Million Man March, and contributed to the widely acclaimed, "Songs of My People."

Employment

Northeastern Illinois University

University of Notre Dame

Howard University

Johnson Publishing Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roy Lewis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roy Lewis lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roy Lewis remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roy Lewis talks about his father, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roy Lewis talks about his father, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roy Lewis recalls his mother's death from tuberculosis

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roy Lewis describes living with his maternal grandfather after his mother passed away

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roy Lewis talks about the farm owned by his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roy Lewis describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roy Lewis remembers childhood holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roy Lewis lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Roy Lewis recalls his childhood neighborhood in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Roy Lewis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Roy Lewis talks about his experience at his childhood schools in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Roy Lewis describes toys he made as child in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Roy Lewis talks about visiting his father and siblings as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Roy Lewis recalls his junior high school experiences in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Roy Lewis remembers his hobbies as a young teenager in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Roy Lewis recalls his desire to move to Chicago, Illinois as a teenager in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roy Lewis remembers significant people from his junior high school years at Brumfield School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roy Lewis describes the aftermath of his maternal grandparents' passing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roy Lewis talks about his introduction to photography at Sadie V. Thompson High School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roy Lewis recalls developing an aspiration to attend college after a school trip to Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roy Lewis remembers his graduation from Sadie V. Thompson High School in Natchez, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roy Lewis recalls obtaining a printing position at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roy Lewis remembers Natchez, Mississippi and the South Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roy Lewis describes how his interests in photography developed at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Roy Lewis talks about how his interest in photography grew during his U.S. Army service

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Roy Lewis remembers understanding photography as medium to effect change

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Roy Lewis recalls his freelance photography work during the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roy Lewis describes his 1967 exhibit 'Black and Beautiful'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roy Lewis talks about the collaborative culture among photographers at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roy Lewis recalls the reception of his 1967 exhibit 'Black and Beautiful'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roy Lewis remembers his documentary photography of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roy Lewis remembers his transition to documentary film

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roy Lewis recalls his 1970 interview with Elijah Muhammad

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roy Lewis recalls working at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Illinois while developing his career in photography and film

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roy Lewis talks about his photographic projects during the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roy Lewis talks about filming the 1974 boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Forman in Kinshasa, Zaire

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Roy Lewis describes his photographic essay projects

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roy Lewis talks about his photojournalistic project 'River Road'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roy Lewis explains his photographic style and process

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roy Lewis talks about 'Songs of My People: African Americans, A Self-Portrait'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roy Lewis recalls photographing the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roy Lewis remembers his favorite photographic work

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roy Lewis reflects upon his life, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roy Lewis gives advice to young people interested in photography

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roy Lewis reflects upon his most significant influences

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Roy Lewis describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Roy Lewis reflects upon his life, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Roy Lewis describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Roy Lewis reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Roy Lewis summarizes his life's work

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DATitle
Roy Lewis remembers understanding photography as medium to effect change
Roy Lewis talks about his photojournalistic project 'River Road'
Transcript
So after your photo was published in Jet.$$Um-hm.$$But what's that like for a photographer to get your first, you know, published photo in a major magazine at the time?$$It makes you feel good, you know? It's like, that's what it's about--$$(Simultaneous) Is it validation?$$Yeah, it's--I--yeah, it makes you feel good, but it's like that's why you're--you know--and I was selling photos, you know, and I wasn't like--you know, I mean at that point I was like--I wasn't just doing photography as a hobby; I never did really do that. Even in the [U.S. military] service I would sell pictures to the other soldiers. I mean the commerce pieces--because, you know, you have to support it and that. Later I had a family, so I had to--the photography became income, you know? I would do jobs and, you know, I set up a darkroom in my house and, you know--so that, that became another source of income, but I did--the idea that, you know--the thing about 'The Family of Man' [Edward Steichen], and then later Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes' '[The] Sweet Flypaper [of Life].' That was like in the '50s [1950s] also. These two books, and then later 'House of Bondage,' from a guy name Ernest Cole out of South Africa. These books really, because they dealt with serious issues that related to where the photographer was and the things that he saw and what he was trying to do, so for me photography, even in the beginning, being around Ebony, watching Ebony come out every week, I mean every month, and Jet come out, Negro Digest and Tan--all these publications, they were dealing with the issues of the day, you know? It focused you around that this is a medium that you can use to affect change or affect people, and that, that has always been with me, I mean right from the start.$The project we were just talking about, 'River Road,' do you have--and I know it's still a work in progress, but thus far, is there a particular person who you--stands out the most to you, or that you remember a little bit more than others, of the folks that you've profiled?$$Yeah, Mr. White [ph.], Mr. White in that pack--you'll see a photo of him in there--Mr. White, because he was about ninety-six, ninety-seven when we photographed him, and he had lived on this land a long time, and I have a photograph of him; it's a close-up of his face that I call--well, I used to call it 'I Built This Country,' but I think I've changed it to, 'We Built this Country,' because it's sort of like a black man who was worked, and he's got the cataract eyes; you see all the creases in his skin. And then there's Martha Young [ph.] who was 106, who was referred to us by the same person, a young lady who really gave us a lot of help because, you know, out in those rural settings, you've got to have somebody that will refer you, you know, and she referred us to these two, and has been a person who has helped us a lot, and--that, and then there are other people who, you know, you photograph that--a Mr.--I can't think of his name right now, but this young man that, that was a man who went away to the war and come back and was working in one of the plants now, and then someone down in a place call Harlem [Louisiana]; it was the Harlem area, you know; that was when we first started. So it's not so much about one or two or three people, but it's really about communities that, you know, are still in existence that used to be, all intent purposes, slave communities, you know? This is these places where--areas where people--black people lived, you know, doing time they were like enslaved.$$And now enslaved in just a different way.$$Yeah (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) But then--$$--in a certain kind of way; I mean, they--you know, some of them have built new homes, and they have--still have some of the shotguns there. You have a mix of, you know, it's not just one strata, because some of these people work in Baton Rouge [Louisiana] and work in New Orleans [Louisiana] or have businesses; some of them have big houses, you know. It's not just one--that was one of the things we wanted to show was that it wasn't, it wasn't one-dimensional; I mean, it was--when you say "rural," it's not a one-dimensional piece. I mean, we--I have a photograph of a guy in this van, multi-colored van, and they said he was selling drugs out there. I mean, you know, it was like, you know, plush and, you know, you look at it, you think it's just colorful, but someone said he was selling drugs, so they have some of the same issues that's going on in the urban community. But we decided we would stay with this road because it just runs right along the side of the [Mississippi] River on both sides. It's interrupted in some places. In--[U.S. Route] 61--when it gets to Baton Rouge, it becomes 61 and goes on up to into Memphis [Tennessee], and since recently I decided maybe we're gonna just take it on to Chicago [Illinois] instead of--not a lot, but keep mostly rural but--because so many people migrated up that road as I did. I mean, I actually--me and a guy drove up that road on the way to--drove to Chicago, and--in '56 [1956], so a lot of other people did; but we want to keep the bulk of it rural and about the circumstance of the chemical plants and oil refiners [refineries] and the effects, and--it's sort of like writing a sentence to it in the center of my work in terms of the cause; I mean with photography, I mean that early '50s [1950s] stuff that I was observing and looking at, photography was always sort of centered around causes, you know; some of the early photographers--Weiss [ph.], who did the children's stuff, and then you got Edward Steichen, and all these people; photography was always a way to deal with issues and changes.