Fram­ing the strug­gle

Los Angeles Times - - ARTS & BOOKS - By Liesl Brad­ner cal­en­dar@la­

In Novem­ber 1962, pho­tog­ra­pher Steve Schapiro came across an es­say in the New Yorker by James Bald­win. The Har­lem-born civil rights ac­tivist and es­say­ist had writ­ten a let­ter, ti­tled “My Dun­geon Shook,” to his 14-year-old nephew on the 100th an­niver­sary of the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion. Later pub­lished un­der the ti­tle “The Fire Next Time,” Bald­win ad­dresses his ex­pe­ri­ence as a black man in Amer­ica.

Bald­win’s words have been paired with 100 of Schapiro’s black and white im­ages, some pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished, in a new art edi­tion from Taschen called “The Fire Next Time.” An ex­hi­bi­tion of Schapiro’s pho­tos, “Free­dom Now. Civil Rights Pho­to­graphs: 1963-1968,” are at Fa­hey/Klein Gallery through Sept. 2.

“Af­ter Life mag­a­zine agreed to let me do a photo es­say on Bald­win, I spent a month trav­el­ing with Jimmy through the South start­ing in Har­lem to North Carolina, Mis­sis­sippi and New Or­leans,” Schapiro said, adding how Bald­win in­tro­duced him to key lead­ers of the civil rights move­ment in­clud­ing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Aber­nathy, Jerome Smith, An­drew Young and a young John Lewis.

In Mis­sis­sippi, Schapiro cap­tured Bald­win in in­ti­mate con­ver­sa­tion with Medgar Evers just a few months be­fore the lat­ter was slain. Schapiro pho­tographed the March on Wash­ing­ton for Jobs and Free­dom, two of the three Selma, Ala., marches and the Free­dom Sum­mer Vot­ing Rights cam­paign.

“Bald­win was a great thinker and in­cred­i­ble speaker but in a dif­fer­ent way from MLK. He spoke in small, in­ti­mate groups,” Schapiro said, adding that Bald­win’s frank­ness wasn’t al­ways em­braced as read­ily as King’s mes­sage. “He was try­ing to be fac­tual about where we were and what the black sit­u­a­tion was in Amer­ica.”

One im­age Schapiro points out shows a black wo­man hold­ing a sign with three words: “Stop po­lice killings.” “It re­lates to what’s going on today in such a strong way with Ferguson and other sim­i­lar in­ci­dents like that,” he said. “That photo was taken in 1965. It re­ally hit me in terms of where we are now in this coun­try.”

Pho­to­graphs by Steve Schapiro

JAMES BALD­WIN, left, joined the fight for equal­ity in the South, meet­ing in Mis­sis­sippi in 1963 with the NAACP’s Medgar Evers.

Steve Schapiro

PHO­TOS in­clude, clock­wise from left, a protest, Selma, 1965; James Bald­win and Medgar Evers in 1963; pro­test­ers and Alabama troop­ers be­fore third Selma march; March on Wash­ing­ton.

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