Ernest C. Withers was one of the most prominent African-American photographers of the civil rights era. During the course of his work, he took thousands photographs that document the civil rights movement―from the Emmett Till trial in 1955 to the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.
What set his work apart was that he goes beyond the political struggles to explain the civil rights movement that changed the country. Withers was primarily a local photographer, working as a freelancer for the Memphis World and Tri-State Defender starting in 1948. His photographs of the everyday world―bridge clubs, funerals, people at work and play, and street life―create a stunning record of what it was like to live in Memphis and the Mid-South. He was also a noted baseball photographer, documenting Negro League baseball in Memphis, and a noted music photographer, taking thousands of photographs of jazz, blues, rock ’n’ roll and R&B performers.