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Letter to a my Friend

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Letter to a Friend Dear Jackie, I am in the city of Memphis, Tennessee and am excited about going to see “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out” from Ernest Withers. This amazing photo was taken on March 28, 1968, and later printed in 1994. I am so excited about going to view this photograph because of the powerful statement showed a group of African American men marching all with signs in hand reading, “I AM A MAN”. During this time civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged striking sanitation workers to continue fighting for economic equality and social justice, this photo illustrates how Ernest Withers wanted to document the events that transpired as a result of this fight for equality. My flight ticket will be approximately $394.10 for a round-trip flight and I will be staying at the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel. My hotel stay will be about $156.21 for a one-night stay. The gentlemen in this photo were the last men to have spoken to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because the following night he was assassinated. Memphis, Tennessee is located right next to the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee. One of the most popular foods in Memphis is bar-b-que. You can eat some of the greatest tasting bar-b-que anywhere here! The culture here in Memphis is so warm and welcoming. Memphis is actually known as the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock’n’Roll. There are also some very neat attractions like the home of Elvis or the Mississippi’s longest pedestrian bridge. Some of the coolest entertainment places I’ve seen are the National Civil Rights Museum, Blues Hall, and Beale Street. Memphis consists of rolling terrains but I believe I will mostly remain in the city where I’ll be surrounded by people and buildings. I am expecting plenty of rain on my trip to Memphis but the climate should be no different from Houston these past few weeks. “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out” was taken by Ernest Withers using his camera that he kept with him at all times. During this time, of course, the production and development of photography had enhanced quite a bit. However, this specific photo was printed as a gelatin silver print. The size of the photograph has not been specified since this particular piece was originally taken as a photo. Withers uses the natural lighting of the outdoors in the photograph to capture the sanitation workers march. During this time racism was still heavily protested by African American men and women. Martin Luther King Jr. was a well-known civil rights leader who happened to speak to the gentlemen in the picture the night before this protest. The Civil Rights Movement lasted between 1954 and ended in 1968 when racial segregation and discrimination laws were ended in the United States. Majority of the politicians at this time were involved in the well-known white supremacist gang known as the Ku Klux Klan who engaged in hate crimes and violent acts against African Americans during this time. Racial segregation has always been active in the United States; however, racism was heavily practiced in southern states. The artwork shows African American men standing in a group holding signs that read, “I AM A MAN”. This two-dimensional photo captures the men engaging in conversations with each other during their protest. The artist places an emphasis on the African American movement for equality by using a black and white filter on the image. The only pattern that really stood out for me was the repeated use of, “I AM A MAN” on the protester’s signs. I believe the message spoke loud and clear, African American men wanted to be treated equally as white men during this time. Ernest Withers was born on August 7, 1922, in Memphis, Tennessee. Withers later passed on October 15, 2007, at 85 years old due to a stroke. His mother, Pearl Withers was a school teacher and his father, Arthur Withers was a mailman. Ernest’s interest in photography started in eighth grade. After graduating high school Withers joined the Army where he attended the Army School of Photography. Shortly after being discharged from the Army, Withers returned home and purchased his own photography studio and began working for one of the first of nine African-American police officers. Some of his most commonly known public shots were for the Memphis Red Sox and included well-known figures like Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was later revealed after Withers death that he worked as a paid informant for the FBI and provided photographs and biographical information on Dr. King. During 1922, several other African American photographers emerged, including R.C. Hickman and Calvin Littlejohn. The two covered parts of Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas. Both covered crucial moments in the civil rights movements and visits by Dr. King and Thurgood Marshall. I chose this specific piece in honor of Black History Month which began and ended in February. R.C. Hickman and Calvin Littlejohn focused on the happy moments during the civil rights movement continue to photograph weddings, jazz concerts, and parades. The photograph was taken by R.C. Hickman capturing the moments during a jazz concert where Lionel Hampton is a picture with his band performing in Dallas on March 12, 1953. Instead of focusing on the struggle during the civil rights movement, Hickman decided to focus on individuals living ordinary lives despite and struggles they were facing. “A Fire That No Water Could Put Out” is currently owned by the High Museum located in Atlanta, Georgia. Visiting Memphis, Tennessee was the ultimate experience in learning about Black History and the struggles faced during the civil rights movement. My next visit will definitely include visiting Beale Street Historic District and the National Civil Rights Museum. I plan on returning sometime in the summer to enjoy some better weather that doesn’t include as much rain as my recent trip. Sincerely, Sara Mohiuddin Works Cited: Withers, Ernest. “‘A Fire That No Water Could Put Out’: Civil Rights Photography.” High Museum of Art, www.high.org/exhibition/a-fire-that-no-water-could-put-out-civil-rights-photography/. “Museum of Photography | Memphis | Withers Collection.” Museum of Photography | Memphis | Withers Collection, www.thewitherscollection.com/. www.expedia.com/Flights. Perrusquia, Marc. A Spy in Canaan: How The FBI Used A Famous Photographer To Infiltrate The Civil Rights Movement.

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