The opening reception of the National Forum on Collecting, Archiving and Teaching Civil Rights History will feature a keynote presentation on the photography of Orangeburg native Cecil Williams.
Williams is a graduate of Claflin University, professional photographer, filmmaker, artist, author of five books and publisher of 105 small-volume books.
The program and exhibition of 32 historical photographs by Williams will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the McMaster Gallery in the Department of Art of the University of South Carolina.
The exhibit’s curator was Dr. Minuette Floyd. Historian Dr. Bobby Donaldson and Cecil Williams will be the opening presenters.
Williams has lectured about his experiences and photojournalism at 16 universities across the nation, and his photographs have been featured in 63 exhibits. In October 2012, he was keynote speaker at Clemson University’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Harvey Gantt’s education at Clemson.
By the age of 9, Williams was an avid photographer, having fallen in love with photography after acquiring a hand-me-down camera from his family. By 15, he was working professionally and as a freelancer for such publications as JET, the Afro-American and the Pittsburgh Courier and as a stringer for The Associated Press.
Through the years, Williams’ photographs have appeared in thousands of publications in the U.S. and abroad. In the 1970s, he founded and published View South News, first as a quarterly magazine and later as a newspaper.
In 1996, he was the writer, producer and director of “Freedom and Justice,” an 86-minute film documentary. His publication, “Freedom and Justice: Four Decades of the Civil Rights Movement As Seen By a Black Photographer of the Deep South,” is one of the most comprehensive sources of photographs from that era. In May 2006, Williams published a sequel photo-documentary titled “Outside the Box in Dixie.”
In February 1994, Williams received a commendation from the S.C. General Assembly for the photographic exhibit “Quiet Heroes.” In August 1995, he was selected by the S.C. Arts Commission to participate as artist-in-residence at William A. Perry High School in Columbia.
In October 1995, he received the Presidential Citation, awarded by President Henry N. Tisdale of Claflin University, for outstanding contributions to the college and community. In April 1996, Williams was featured as one of four civil rights photographers in a screening of “Exposures of a Movement” at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C. In February 2005, he was the featured presenter during the MLK program at Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
The forum titled, “Lift Every Voice,” will bring together experts and stakeholder communities to address the challenges of collecting, archiving, presenting and teaching the history of the civil rights movement. The national forum, with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services will take place on May 14-18 in Columbia and will result in a collaborative model and action agenda for libraries, museums, archives and stakeholder communities, which will be disseminated nationally.
McMaster Gallery is located on the corner of Senate and Pickens streets, Columbia.