The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, 1964-1968: The Photography of Jim Lucas

A Gallery Talk with jane hearn
June 22, 20176-8pm
State of Tennessee Gallery

 

The National Civil Rights Museum has opened the exhibit The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, 1964-1968: The Photography of Jim Lucas with over 60 photos by the photojournalist. The exhibit chronicles Freedom Summer and the search for the three missing civil rights workers in 1964, a day on the Meredith March Against Fear in 1966, the Wharlest Jackson funeral in 1967, the Senate Hearings to Evaluate Poverty in 1967, and the bombings, boycotts and demonstrations during 1964-1968.

In 1964 Jim Lucas was a student at Millsaps College when the nation was focused on Mississippi and the search for Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, civil rights workers missing in Neshoba County during the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.  The exhibit photos show search teams in action, news crews on assignment, morgue intake of the civil rights workers’ bodies, and courthouse clamor during the case. Images of Freedom Schools and young grassroots organizers working to register African-American voters show the ongoing dedication despite the violent setback of the murders.

In the exhibit, Lucas’ photos highlight unity and perseverance during the 1966 Meredith March Against Fear as interracial multigenerational protesters walked through Yazoo County. In February 1967 Lucas photographed grief during the funeral of Wharlest Jackson as well as the family support bolstered by the Deacons of Defense. Jackson was killed in a Natchez car bombing for accepting a job promotion. His murder is still a cold case. 

Fifty years ago, Lucas was assigned to shoot the 1967 U.S. Senate Hearings on Poverty in Jackson when the focus was on the state’s resistance against the Johnson Administration’s Great Society domestic programs to end poverty and racial injustice.  Photos of testimony from civil rights stalwarts Marian Wright Edelman, Fannie Lou Hamer and others show the workers’ systemic frustration that quickly drew U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to the Delta and national attention on the extreme poverty in the region.

The exhibit depicts the escalation of Klu Klux Klan activity through murders and bombings of homes and Jewish synagogues. It also shows the emboldened fortitude of the African American community standing in demonstrations and boycotts against violence and discrimination.

During those turbulent times these events drew national press to Mississippi and Lucas had the opportunity to assist cameramen from CBS news.  Using his still camera, he rarely missed a visual story and soon became a stringer for UPI, Time and Life magazines.

In 1968, Jim Lucas was drafted and spent his basic training in the Army at Fort Campbell, KY, followed by special training in the Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, NJ.  During his deployment in Vietnam, he shot non-combat footage for the Army, gaining experience and commitment for his future career as a film cameraman.  In 1969, he was distinguished by the Department of Defense as the Military Newsfilm Motion Picture Photographer of the Year.  He continued in his filmmaking career until his death in 1980.

This exhibit was created and curated by Jane Hearn, who was married to Lucas at the time of his death, and Red Morgan, a Mississippi photojournalist and commercial still photographer. Their ongoing collaboration archives Lucas’ extensive collection and pays tribute to a master photographer who grasped the significance of the Movement in sensitive visual language.

Hearn said about the exhibit, “The National Civil Rights Museum is a mecca for those who want to learn about the struggles for equal rights in our country.  The late Jim Lucas was witness to those struggles and documented them with his still camera with a purposeful and sensitive eye. It is, therefore, fitting that these images of events that occurred in Mississippi during the 60s be shown here for visitors from far and wide, of many backgrounds and cultures, and of multiple generations to know and remember the sacrifices and achievements of those who challenged oppression.”

 

CAPTIONS: (1) Marchers.  Meredith March Against Fear.  June 22, 1966. (2) March between Yazoo City and Canton.  Yazoo County, MS.  June 22, 1966. (3) Byron de la Beckwith, assassinated Medgar Evers in 1963,  convicted in 1994.  Mississippi State Capitol.  Jackson.  February 15, 1967. (4) Freedom School and CORE Office, Meridian, MS. July 4, 1964. (5) Funeral procession outside Zion Chapel AME Church.  Natchez. March 6, 1967. (6) Picket Line.  F&F Super Market.  Star, MS.  December 22, 1966. (7) Courthouse Square, Neshoba County, MS.  June 23, 1964.