Celebrating A Time of Life, Hope and Bravery
(March 7 – April 1, 2016)
Unforgettable 1950/1970; Celebrating A Time of Life, Hope, and Bravery features forty selected photographs from the archives of Cecil Williams, a 1960 graduate of Claflin University and lifetime chronicler of sweeping social and political gains by Blacks. The forty vividly detailed framed images record unforgettable, yet compassionate moments of men, women, children of segregation, and events over a two decade era, mostly devoid of Black history and culture.
Cecil Williams, publisher and author of four books, and sometimes referred to as a legendary photographer and foremost documentarian of Black history and culture, reveals for the first time, images he photographed in other locations including New York and Jacksonville. The images in the exhibit are also a prelude to his newest publication, “Unforgettable,” which will debut August 2016. Before and during the civil rights era of the 1960s, many of Williams’ photographs appeared in publications such as JET, TIME, and NEWSWEEK.
All images in the exhibit have been digitized by Cecil Williams and archivists at Claflin Uiversity. In a newly established lab, located in the H.V. Manning Library, the digitization of negative films began in October 2015, Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, President of Claflin University, appointed Cecil Williams Director of Historic Preservation. Working collaboratively in the project are, Marilyn Gibbs Drayton, Library Director, Barbara Green, Library Specialist, and four students interns.
Most of the images in the exhibit have surfaced for the first time, with some events captured from another angle or film negative not recovered until now. With many of his subjects, warmth and grace is depicted by Williams, which in the context of recent racial discord, locally and nationally, provide a timeless portrayal of two decades of Black life in the deep South and in America.
The forty mostly large format images filling the Arthur Rose Museum, provide a rare glimpse of events, portraits, and moments of significant social change. The noble subjects and pioneers captured in Cecil Williams’ images, emerged and engaged to accomplish unforgettable waves of change that impacted the world like no other period in history.
The images in the Unforgettable exhibit are among what Williams estimates are between one half million to one million negatives that he has amassed over the past 60 years. Eventually, all film negatives will be housed at Claflin University. Fearing that his negatives would fade into oblivion, Williams has designed, developed and patented a device called a “FilmToaster” to preserve the negatives. The device, which is first used exclusively at Claflin and also on exhibit, basically allows photographers to use their own cameras to digitize archives, “is potentially faster than a flatbed scanner and also delivers very high-resolution results,” according to PDN magazine’s December 2015 issue that features Williams’ invention.
Williams’ negatives may comprise the largest collection of civil rights images in the world. The magnitude of the imaging project at Claflin is that it not only guarantees the preservation of the University’s legacy. It also establishes Claflin as a leading repository of images that encapsulate a pivotal period in American history. As the first historically black college/university (HBCU) in the state, Claflin has made immeasurable contributions not only to the Orangeburg community, but also to the state and the nation. Claflin’s history is inextricably linked to the history of African Americans, higher education, the church, the civil rights movement and other issues of social justice.
ART CONTINUES THE LEGACY
(25 February – 4 March 2016)
In the tradition of Arthur Rose, Alvin Staley, Floyd Gordon, and Leo Twiggs, we now honor the works of Claflin professors who continue to teach and inspire. We currently admire, and over the years may yet applaud, the developing legacy that is being left by Professors Kod Igwe, Habibur Rahman, Jelani Thomas, Raishad Glover, Tabitha Ott, Herman Keith, Jr., David Howell, and Giordano Angeletti.
Enjoy the exhibits: see how Art Continues the Legacy at Claflin University.
400 Magnolia St.
Orangeburg, SC 29115
Copyright: Art Department, Claflin University 2016