Jasper, Texas: The Hidden Half of a Small Texas Town

Parade, 1950s

J.H. Rowe High School Marching Band Led by Annie Clyde Dacus, ca. 1958-59

Jesse Brook (Second From Left) and Others Dancing, 1950s

Wedding Preparations, Bonnie Mitchell and Her Sister Ida Mae Mitchell, 1957

James Byrd Jr. (central portrait), 1967 Graduate of J. H. Rowe High School

Jasper, Texas: The Hidden Half of a Small Texas Town

In 1998, the small East Texas town of Jasper was shaken by the brutal, racially motivated killing of a forty-nine-year old African American named James Byrd Jr. The international coverage of that traumatic race-crime did not, for the most part, reveal the stark past and complicated social life of this historically segregated community. For example, little notice was paid to the photographs of Alonzo Jordan (1903-1984), a local photographer who had made Byrd’s high school graduation portrait, and who had worked for more than forty years to document African Americans in Jasper and in the surrounding rural areas. Jordan’s photographs are the subject of an exhibition, Jasper, Texas: The Community Photographs of Alonzo Jordan, presently on view at The International Center of Photography in New York City from January 21 to May 8, 2011.

Like many small-town photographers, Alonzo Jordan fulfilled various roles in the community. A barber by trade, Alonzo Jordan was also a Prince Hall Mason, a deacon in his church, an educator and a local leader, who took up photography to fill a social need he recognized. Over the years, he chronicled the everyday world of black East Texas, especially the civic events and social rituals that were integral to the daily life of the people he served. In addition to revealing the African American culture of Jasper during the Civil Rights era, this exhibition challenges existing formalistic approaches to the study of vernacular photography. It considers Jordan’s distinguished career as a “community photographer.”

In communities across the nation, photographs of this kind have been proudly displayed for decades in people’s homes, local churches, businesses, civic buildings and schools, because they document groups and individuals who are held in high esteem. Frequently, the photographer is not identified or credited, because the emphasis is upon the family, social and professional groups, and the recognition of the community infrastructure.

Jasper’s Journey: The Life of James Byrd Jr.

Slide Show: Jasper, Texas/The Hidden Half of a Small Texas Town

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Photo of the Day: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009

Photography by:  Jeff Sheng, Los Angeles

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009 is a photograph by the award-winning Los Angeles photographer Jeff Sheng.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is his new photography project, which consists of a series of photographs of closeted men and women in the United States military. The photographs represent Sheng’s interest in the intersections between public and private spaces, and the government’s ever-intrusive policing of our most private spaces.

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Odetta, Singer for the American Civil Rights Movement, Dies

Odetta: The Voice of the American Civil Rights Movement

Odetta: Songs of Personal and Social Liberation

Odetta, the singer whose deep voice wove together the strongest songs of American folk music and the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at Lenox Hill Hospital (NYC) at the age of 77.  She had been hoping to sing at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration in January.  Odetta, who sang at coffeehouses and at Carnegie Hall, made highly influential recordings of blues and ballads, and became one of the most widely known folk-music artists of the 1950s and ’60s.   She was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.

Her voice was an accompaniment to the black-and-white images of the freedom marchers who walked the roads of Alabama and Mississippi and the boulevards of Washington in the quest to end racial discrimination.  Rosa Parks, the woman who started the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama, was once asked which songs meant the most to her.  She replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”

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Odetta: Singer for the Civil Rights Movement

Odetta Singing “Glory Halleluja”

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In Honor of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks: The Foundation of the Civil Rights Movement

This weekend marks the anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala., city bus in 1955. On December 1st, 1955, Parks, a 42-year-old mild-mannered seamstress living in the racially segregated South, boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees.

Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement

However, her refusal to give up her seat to a white man led to a subsequent year-long boycott of the city’s bus system by Montgomery’s black residents, which was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who went on to become a central figure in the fight for equal rights for blacks during the 1960s.  But it was Rosa Parks’ quiet defiance of discrimination that rendered herself an important symbol of the burgeoning civil rights movement, laying the very foundation for the important later work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Rosa Parks: A Civil Rights Documentary

Rosa Parks died in Detroit on Monday, October 25th, 2005 at the age of 92.  The late civil rights icon was the first woman to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute usually reserved for presidents, soldiers and politicians.  Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voted to honor Parks with this extraordinary national homage.  “The movement that Rosa Parks helped launch changed not only our country, but the entire world, as her actions gave hope to every individual fighting for civil and human rights. We now can honor her in a way deserving of her contributions and legacy,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.  According to the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda had been used for this honor only 28 times since 1852.  Other Americans so honored have included Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and World War II General Douglas MacArthur.  Shamefully, despite the many posthumous honors and accolades, Rosa Parks died in a state of abject poverty, with none of the major human rights organizations offering to provide even the smallest amount of financial support to meet her meager, basic living needs during the later part of her life.

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Rosa Parks: A Belated Tribute

Rosa Parks: A Belated Tribute

The late civil rights icon Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute usually reserved for presidents, soldiers and politicians.  Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voted to honor Parks with this extraordinary national homage.  According to the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda has been used for this honor only 28 times since 1852.  Other Americans so honoured have included Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and World War II General Douglas MacArthur.

The movement that Rosa Parks helped launch changed not only our country, but the entire world, as her actions gave hope to every individual fighting for civil and human rights.  We now can honour her in a way deserving of her contributions and legacy,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.  Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who helped spark the U. S. civil rights movement when she courageously refused to give her seat on an Alabama bus to a white man 50 years ago, died on Monday at the age of 92.  Shamefully, she died in a state of almost total poverty, with none of the major human rights organizations offering to provide even the smallest amount of financial support to meet her meager, basic living needs in later life.

On December 1, 1955, Parks, a 42-year-old mild-mannered seamstress living in the racially segregated south, boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  Her refusal to give up her seat to a white man led to a subsequent boycott of the city’s bus system by black residents,which was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who became a central figure in the fight for equal rights for blacks during the 1960s.

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