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Legendary photographer to reflect on civil rights struggle at Newhouse commemoration
Legendary photographer to reflect on civil rights struggle at Newhouse commemorationApril 14, 2004Amy Schmitzaemehrin@syr.edu
For photographer Charles Moore, the images are still vivid and searing: Young people attacked by police dogs. A woman clubbed by a police officer. Civil rights marchers knocked to their knees by the power-spray of fire hoses of the Birmingham, Ala., Fire Department.
“Birmingham was the turning point for me,” recalls Moore, the former Life magazine photographer who covered much of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He had grown up in Alabama and visited Birmingham often as a child. “I loved Birmingham,” says Moore. Then, as he watched the city’s reaction to the civil rights movement, he recalls, “I said to myself, ‘Why is this happening? How could this kind of hate and violence happen in a town I so loved?’ “
In late April, Moore will reflect on those questions again as he and 19 other key journalists of the civil rights era gather at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. The journalists are part of a symposium to commemorate two civil rights landmarks: the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The symposium, “Defining US: Civil Rights and the Press,” will be April 24-25.
Other featured speakers are Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a veteran journalist of civil rights coverage; and Rep. John Lewis, one of the civil rights movement’s most prominent figures and leader of the pivotal Selma, Ala., voting rights marches in 1965.
For his part, photographer Moore chronicled many of the major events of the movement, from the arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham to the Selma marches. The experiences shaped his life.
“I was already a photographer by the time of the civil rights era,” he says. “But what I saw made me more sure of my vocation than ever. I wanted to photograph everything so that people could see what was going on. I knew I was doing the right thing and that I needed to continue.”
Moore continued to act as witness to history’s atrocities. After the civil rights movement, he went on to photograph the civil war in the Dominican Republic, political violence in Venezuela and Haiti and the U.S. military operations in Vietnam. In 1989, Moore won the first annual Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism, which sparked a renewed interest in civil rights-era journalism.
Now 73 years old, Moore lives again in his hometown of Tuscumbia, Ala., and he is proud of the changes he sees in the South. “There will, of course, always be people who hate other groups of people,” says Moore. “But I believe we’ve made tremendous progress in all areas of human rights. And I think we as a country learned a lesson, which was, ‘Don’t violate my rights, ’cause I’ll fight back.’ “
At SU’s commemoration, Moore will present some of his award-winning images from the civil rights movement. The two-day event will examine civil rights coverage of the 1950s and 1960s and also reflect on today’s coverage of emerging civil rights movements and issues in the increasingly diverse society of the United States.
The symposium will take place in Studio A of Newhouse II. It is free and open to the public. Lunch is $10 for SU students with I.D. and $25 for the general public. Registration is at http://civilrightsandthepress.syr.edu/schedule.html.