In Memory of Bob Fitch Civil Rights Activist Photographer

Bob Fitch 1937 – 2016

Civil rights photographer Bob Fitch died of complications from Parkinson’s disease at his home in Watsonville, CA on April 29, 2016. As he anticipated his passing, he generously donated his extensive archives to the Stanford University Libraries under the condition that they be made free and downloadable to all. https://library.stanford.edu/collections/bob-fitch-photography-archive Fitch was highly critical of civil rights activists and their heirs who attempt to gain what he considered excessive profits from their archives. His belief was that the Movement belonged to the people.

Bob Fitch Photographer & Activist

Bob Fitch Photographer & Activist

Traveling throughout Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia on staff of SCLC 1965-67 Bob documented day-to-day Civil Rights Movement events — local community organizing, violence against Afro American citizens, numerous demonstrations, voter registration and Afro American (a term Bob insisted on, long after it passed out of usage)  political campaigns.

Bob Fitch and other civil rights veterans singing at "This Bright Light of Ours" westcoast book launch Feb 20, 2014

Bob Fitch and other civil rights veterans singing at “This Bright Light of Ours” westcoast book launch Feb 20, 2014

Fitch wrote that his images were shipped [by SCLC] to national Afro American publishing outlets that could neither afford nor risk sending reporters to the south. “Those communities, workers and their families,” says Fitch, “are still my heroes.” Many of his best images document the courageous contributions made to the Civil Rights movement by local men, women, and children who organized the cause for freedom in their communities. He photographed nearly all of the Black candidates who ran for office in the first election after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Some of these photos are still in need of identification, a task which he implored me to continue after his death. Please write msgitin@mariagitin.com  or visit earlier posts on this blog: visithttps://thislittlelight1965.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/please-help-identify-these-foot-soldiers-for-freedom-photos-by-bob-fitch/  if you are able to assist with identification.

Dorothy Cotton teaching Citizenship Literacy, AnnieMaine, AL 1966. Photo copyright Bob Fitch

Dorothy Cotton teaching Citizenship Literacy, AnnieMaine, AL 1966. Photo copyright Bob Fitch

Some of Fitch’s most of iconic photos are of Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Ralph Abernathy, and of United Farm Worker leader, César Chavez. These images have been reproduced countless times, often without proper credit. Although he was credited by the US Post Office for their 2002 rendering of one of his Chavez photos, Bob explained “The stamp is an honor, but also a disappointment,” says Fitch. “The stamp rendering replaces the original background, a vivid red and black United Farmworker Union huelga flag, with an agricultural field. The Bush Republican administration was not ready to put a union label on a stamp.”

In another combination honor-disappointment, Bob Fitch’s photo of Martin Luther King Jr. standing in front of a photo of Gandhi was the model for the MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Fitch was not invited to the dedication ceremony and had never seen the statue. In February he asked my husband, Samuel Torres Jr, to take a photo of the monument from the same angle as his photo, which we sent to Fitch. Bob told us that they changed the arrangement of King’s arms in order to avoid paying him royalties.  He added to his response dated February 25, 2016, “Maybe it’s the lighting, but I find the monument persona very stern.  This is not the preacher of hope.”

Bob didn’t brag about his three years working for King at SCLC nor his seven years documenting the United Farm Workers but he was confidently proud that he did important and lasting work. He argued with anyone he thought was wrong, and he had no patience for activists who were self-aggrandizing or selfish. He spoke often of local individuals he remembered fondly, particularly from Wilcox County and Dallas County where he spent much time with SCLC. I am deeply grateful to Bob for allowing me to use his never-before-seen photos from Wilcox County Alabama in my 2014 memoir, This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight (University of Alabama Press). www.thisbrightlightofours.com Of course, then I owed him –  for the rest of his life and beyond – the duty of continuing to help with his photo ID project. Bob was nobody’s fool!

Fitch worked at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz and with other community groups over the course of his lifetime but photographing the people’s movement was his lifetime passion. Bob was also a talented folk singer, enjoyed and shared a very corny sense of humor, and was fiercely loyal to his friends.  He loved his sons and adored his lovely late in life partner, Karen Shaffer. He was a good friend and we will miss him very much. – Maria Gitin, April 30, 2016

 

This Bright Light of Ours Returns to Alabama this June

June 7th in Montgomery

June 6th in Selma

Since the publication of “This Bright Light of Ours” in 2014, Maria Gitin has offered more than 35 presentations at universities, bookstores, museums, churches and temples, community centers,  and nonprofit organizations. Her presentations include first hand testimony and photos from grassroots veterans of the 1965 civil rights movement. Her talks are energized with civil rights songs, questions and discussions and by the introduction of other civil rights veterans and their families. She is excited to return to Alabama for these two public presentations and to attend the Crawford family reunion. 
Tuesday June 7 noon-1:15 PM This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the 1965 Voting Rights Fight in Wilcox County, Alabama
Book Talk with music, archival slides and stories Free and open to all.
Alabama Department of Archives & History
Milo B. Howard Auditorium
624 Washington Avenue
lorez Final book coverJkt_Gitin_finalMontgomery, AL 36130

 

Monday June 6 th 2-3:00 PM

The National Park Service, Selma Interpretive Center sponsors Maria Gitin at the Performing Arts Center 

1000 Selma Ave., Selma, AL 36701  www.thisbrightlightofours.com

 

Linking the Generations

Willie H Parker 1965 FullSizeRender 2

Last week, Ms. Cassandra Vee Rodgers wrote to me on Face Book that she wanted to surprise her fiance, Mr Tyrone Bryant, by coming to meet me and having me sign a copy of “This Bright Light of Ours” for him because his father, Willie H Parker of Coy is featured on the book jacket. We had a wonderful visit yesterday.  Growing up, Bryant did not get to know his father well so he was surprised and happy to meet someone who knows about his father’s courageous Camden Academy Class of 1965.

Camden Academy students, including Willie Parker, Sim Pettway, Ralph Eggleston, and many others, participated in almost daily demonstrations from February-May of their senior year. They were tear gassed, beaten, cattle prodded, ridiculed and threatened with suspension, but they kept on with the encouragement and support of Camden Academy Chaplain TL Threadgill, and teachers Mr Parrish and Mr. Foster.

Learn more about the Camden Academy student movement in these books:TBLO book jacket_low res

“This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” by Maria Gitin www.thisbrightlightofours.com

“In the Shadow of Selma: The Continuing Struggle for Civil Rights in the Rural South by Cynthia Griggs Fleming

 

Congressional Medal of Freedom for Voting Rights Marchers

https://youtu.be/tguJKkukwJ0

Rev FD Reese is presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor for 1965 Voting Rights Marchers. Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan, Terri Sewell, Cory Booker and John Lewis were among the elected officials attending.

Rev FD Reese is presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor for 1965 Voting Rights Marchers. Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan, Terri Sewell, Cory Booker and John Lewis were among the elected officials attending.

We were thrilled to be invited to the February 24, 2016 ceremony in Washington DC. The Congressional Gold Medal was ceremonially presented to Selma civil rights leader Rev FD Reese and will be on permanent display at the Selma Interpretive Center.

Although I was not a marcher, I joined the Movement and came to work in the voting rights fight, because of the marchers. Thank you Charles Bonner, Bruce Hartford, Sheryl Threadgill-Matthews and others who encouraged me to attend. The courage of grassroots civil rights demonstrators throughout the South from 1958-1970’s continues to inspire all of us. Commissioner John Moton of Wilcox County and Commissioner Dennis Harris Jr of Montgomery also attended.

Participating in the ceremony will remain among my most outstanding memories.

www.thisbrightlightofours.com

Dr. King Encourages Community at Antioch Baptist Church Rally

zz adelman king 53 wide

Dr. King spoke from a trailer in front of Antioch Baptist Church because his aides had been informed the church would be firebombed if he went inside. SCLC staff Hosea Williams and Fred Shuttlesworth, as well as King’s children Yolanda and Dexter were with him.

Photo ID #53 Martin Luther King Jr in doorway
Wider view w 16 identifiable faces
1. ________young boy, front left, leaning left, white shirt, covered by microphones,
2. Fred Brown, young boy, front row, arm out, white shirt

2.5 Darryl Perryman, 2yrs old with Ms______in flowered dress.
3. Moses Brown, teen, checked/plaid shirt, looking up
4. Sim Pettway, teen, white shirt, looking down, right front
5. ____Young woman, far left bouffant hair
6. ____Young woman behind her to the right, white collar dress
7.Carrie Robinson with flower on hat looking up
8.Robert Powell, towel on head, sunglasses
9. Rosetta Marsh Anderson with hand over mouth next to Powell
9.5 Ezzie Wilson with dark wide brim hat, face tipped up behind and to the left of Powell
10. _________ behind Powell, face barely visible
11. _______tall young man with “high top” haircut, white shirt, behind hat lady
12.________young woman with headband, far right
13. _______Woman with white eyeglasses 3rd row far right
14. _______Young woman, far left 4th row arms crossed, sleeveless dress
15. _______Woman with white high/turban hat, arms crossed
16. China Miles with white hat behind woman with arms crossed
17. Susanna Rich in hair rollers, under umbrella

Dr. King at Antioch Baptist Church

April 29, 1966 Photo copyright Bob Adelman

G. Adelman king at a ad76

Dr. King encourages residents of Wilcox County to never give up the fight for equality, April 29, 1966, Camden AL

Photo ID #76 Martin Luther King Jr in doorway [portrait / upright view]
1. _________young boy, front left, leaning left, white shirt
2. Fred Brown young boy, slightly behind front row, arm out, white shirt
3. Moses Brown, plaid shirt, looking down
4. Sim Pettway, white shirt, looking down, far right front row
5. Bessie Pettway, dark glasses, far left, 2nd row
6. Cora_______ holding Darryl Perryman (baby), 3rd row
7. Ezzie Wilson, broad brim hat, glasses, 2nd row
8. Virginia Boykin Burrell of Boiling Springs, polka dot dress, center 3rd row
9. Luella George McCants, center with high hat, 4th row.
10. ___________woman with glasses, hair parted in middle
11. Robert Powell with sunglasses, towel on head
12. ____________tall young man with “high top” haircut, white shirt, to upper right of hat lady
12.Carrie Robinson,flower on hat looking up, to left behind RobertPowell
13. Rosetta Marsh Anderson, to right and behind Robert Powell (mostly hidden)
Others in back?

DR. KING AND REV FRED SHUTTLESWORTH SPEAK IN CAMDEN

Photo ID #50 

Shuttlesworth w numbers

Rev Fred Shuttlesworth reads introduction to Dr. King in Camden, April 29, 1966. This photo is numbered for identification purposes.

Please leave photo ID names in “comment” box below or send to Maria Gitin on Face Book. Thank you.                        

  1. Rev Fred Shuttlesworth in doorway
  1. Fred Brown, young boy, white shirt slightly behind far left, front
  1. __________young boy, front left in white shirt, clapping
  2. Moses Brown, young man, plaid shirt, arms crossed
  3. Sim Pettway, leading applause
  4. _________woman in white turban/high hat, behind Sim
  5. _________woman in dark dress, bouffant hair front row, far right
  6. ________woman in multi colored broad brim hat, face hidden, behind Sim
  7. ________young woman with headband, third row
  8. ______ woman with bouffant hair,4th row far left
  9. ______young man, short hair,4th row, mostly hidden
  10. ______Someone holding a book or handbag on their head
  1. Robert Powell, wearing sunglasses with towel on head
  2. _________tall young man with “high top” haircut, white shirt, behind hat lady
  3. ______________young man, towel on head, next to man with high top
  4. ________young man white shirt and tee shirt, short hair, last one on far right
  5. _________young man squinting, dark pattern shirt, 2nd from far right

(No #) Susanna Rich, under umbrella with white rollers