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Ovie Carter

Photojournalist Ovie Carter was born on March 11, 1946 in Indianola, Mississippi to Grover and Mary Carter. Carter grew up in several different cities and attended Douglass High School in Memphis, Tennessee and John Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois before graduating from Soldan High School in St. Louis, Missouri in 1964. He went on to attend Forest Park Community College. Carter served with the U.S. Air Force and upon his discharge; Carter attended the Ray Vogue School of Photography, now the Illinois Institute of Art. Directly after graduation, Carter was hired to work at The Chicago Tribune.

In 1974, Carter traveled for nearly three months through African and India with fellow Chicago Tribune reporter William Mullen documenting the famine affecting almost half a billion people. Their journey, entitled Faces of Hunger, appeared in The Chicago Tribune as a five-part series and won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Photos from the series also won Carter the World Press Photo Contest in Amsterdam and the Overseas Press Club of America Award. In 1992, Mitch Duneier and Carter published the book Slim’s Table, based on Duneier’s Ph.D. dissertation. The two paired up again to publish Sidewalk in 2000 before Carter’s retirement in 2004.

Carter was named the Illinois Press Photographers Association’s Photographer of the Year in 1973-1974 and he has won the National Association of Black Journalists Excellence Award twice. In 2000, The Chicago Tribune honored Carter at their annual banquet for his thirty years of service. Carter also received the National Association of Black Journalists “Legends in Their Own Time” Distinguished Career award in 2004. Carter is a member of the Chicago Alliance of African American Photographers.

Ovie Carter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 26, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.035

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/26/2010

Last Name

Carter

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Calvin

Occupation
Schools

George Washington Carver Elementary School 87

Hyde Park Elementary School

John Marshall Metropolitan High School

Soldan International Studies High School

Illinois Institute of Art

Ray-Vogue College of Design

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ovie

Birth City, State, Country

Indianola

HM ID

CAR20

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

With God, all things are possible.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/11/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Southern Food

Short Description

Photojournalist Ovie Carter (1946 - ) is a Putlitzer Prize winning photojournalist, recognized for his reporting on famine in Africa and India. He worked at The Chicago Tribune for thirty-four years.

Employment

Parents' Farm

Chicago Tribune

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Muted Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ovie Carter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes his mother's growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about his father's education and his work as a farmer

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about his siblings and his father's name

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about moving from Indianola, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee to Chicago, Illinois as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter describes the neighborhood where he grew up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter describes growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes race relations in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about two academic studies on race relations in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in elementary school in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about working with his family on the cotton farms of Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter recalls the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his family leaving Indianola, Mississippi in the late 1950s and moving to Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter talks about blues musicians from Mississippi and the musical scene in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about B.B. King, and the Saturday night music scene in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about the role of the Church in his community in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about growing up listening to blues music

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in school in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about injuring his knees as a child, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about injuring his knees as a child, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about his family's move to Chicago, Illinois in 1959, and their early life there

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about attending high school in Chicago, Illinois, and then moving to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in high school in Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter describes his decision to go to college and his experience there

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about dropping out of college and joining the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about his experience in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about the benefits of serving in the U.S. Air Force, and his introduction to reading books

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about his decision to stay in Chicago, Illinois, after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about his desire to go to New York City to work in theatre, and his decision to take photography classes

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter describes his being hired as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter describes his being hired as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about being the first African American photographer at the 'Chicago Tribune', and his African American colleagues

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his job as a photographer at the 'Chicago Tribune', and his decision to stay in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter recalls the riots in Chicago, Illinois, following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about his early experience as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about the reputation of the 'Chicago Tribune'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter discusses his exhibits, and winning the Illinois Press Photographers Association's 'Photographer of the Year' award in 1972

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter describes his experience photographing famine in India and across Africa in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his trip to Africa in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter discusses his exhibit with his fellow-photographers, entitled, 'Through the Eyes of Blackness'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about the black photographers he admired

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his photography equipment

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and the World Press Photo Contest in 1976

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about traveling across the U.S. to assess the state of Native Americans in 1976

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about his divorce and how it affected him spiritually

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about Mitchell Duneier's book, 'Slim's Table', a book based on a restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about the changes in race relations in the South in the late 1990s and early 2000s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about working with Mitchell Duneier on the book, 'Sidewalk'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his favorite photograph

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter reflects upon himself as a photographer

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about adapting to digital photography

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter reflects upon the importance of a close-knit community of African American journalists

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about his eyesight

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about his family, and his parents' pride in his career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 1
Ovie Carter talks about working with Mitchell Duneier on the book, 'Sidewalk'
Transcript
All right, so you're starting to suggest topics to your editor [at the 'Chicago Tribune'].$$I did.$$And (simultaneous)--$$I did.$$What kind of ideas did you have?$$Well, I'd say my concerns at the time were, you know, social conditions that we were experiencing as a nation. And, of course, the, the social environment that I came out of, on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois] in particular. And the drug culture was a huge problem out there even then, you know, with the people I knew, you know, relatives who had gotten caught up in it, destroyed by it and all that.$$And what was the nature of the drug problem then, was it heroin?$$Heroin.$$Yeah, okay.$$The, the heroin addiction, and the young men wanted to be pimps at the time. You know, this was when those movies were popular, blaxsploitation [film genre] and all that. So that was--that was very--a popular pursuit and ambition for a lot of young men, pimping and, and--and drug abuse was. And I could see how it was destroying the lives of the young people. So I thought, well, you know I'll take some photographs and I'll sort of, at least, bring this to the attention of our readers, you know. And I had no experience in, you know--what it meant to, to, to document a thing, you know. So I basically constructed the photographs, you know what I mean--illustrated it more than I did document it, you know what I mean. They were illustrations, but I did it in a--at the time, at least the newspaper thought so--thought that it was artfully done and, and, and well enough conceived that they decided to--and they were impressed enough that they wanted to run the pictures in the paper. And they decided to run them as an editorial, which was a first for the newspaper. They ran--they, they, they took all of the written material off the editorial page that day and just ran the photographs as the editorial. And, you know, subsequently, you know, the story was picked up by other newspapers and was featured in 'Editor & Publisher' magazine and all that. And, so that sort of began the type of, of work that I would continue to do for the newspaper.$Now in 2000, you and [Mitchell] Duneier published another book called 'Sidewalk'.$$Um-hmm.$$So tell us about 'Sidewalk'.$$Duneier, who was a law student also at the time, and he was a student at NYU [New York University]. And in that area of Greenwich Village, down there in Lower Manhattan, you would see these men--you've seen these guys who sell books on the sidewalks down there. Well, there was a--there was a C (ph.) Ordinance that made that possible for people to sell printed material as a First Amendment right--print material on the streets there without, you know, being taxed. They made it a First Amendment issue. So he would see these guys, you know, all the time there, and again, again. He's just is a keen observer of human nature. And as a--with the eye of a sociologist, he began to observe them, talk with them, and felt that he should do some research on them. And he started, you know, the research and discovered more and more about them and how, how they came to work down there, how they got their books, you know, and magazines, the kind of lifestyle that they, that they live. Many of them were drug abusers at the time and continued to do that type of work. And this type of work gave them--provided them the income that they needed to supply their--you know, their drug habits and everything without being a burden on society--without resorting to violence and stealing, you know, robbing people and things like that. So the story had a lot of rich components to it. So he had been working on it and he, you know, met some really interesting characters and then sort--then sort of developed along those lines. And there's a type of journ--sociology called participatory something or other where he has to participate as a researcher. So he was on the streets with them, you know, and all that for periods of--periods of time. And he began to talk to me about it when we were doing 'Sidewalk' I think--no, not 'Sidewalk'--but Valois [restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, where Dunieier's other book 'Slim's Table' was based]. Right after that he began to tell me about it. And so I went there to see for myself and meet some of the guys. And I hadn't spent a whole lot of time in New York before, so it was--you know, it was quite an experience especially down in, you know, the Village down there (unclear)--oh, the pace, you know, and everything. But--and I would go there for long weekends and take a little vacation time here and there. And over a period of a few years, you know, we finished the book--he finished the book and I, you know, supplied him with the photos that I had made.$$Okay, okay.