“Cast by the media at the time as sporadic and less significant than the heroic, nonviolent protests in the South, the local activism that took place in the North, West and Midwest is all but absent in the way we characterize, teach and remember the civil rights era. In response, this book seeks to recast the visual narrative of the era by bringing the broad, nationwide struggle for black freedom into sharper view.” —Mark Speltz
The history of the civil rights movement is commonly illustrated with well-known photographs from Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, Ala. — leaving the visual story of the movement outside the South remaining to be told. In "North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South," author and historian Mark Speltz shines a light past iconic photographs of the era to focus on images of everyday activists who led grassroots campaigns to protest racial discrimination in jobs, housing, education and policy brutality. Those hard-fought battles took place in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia, among many other American cities north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
For this powerful and compelling volume, Speltz carefully selected 100 photographs, some never before seen or published, taken between 1938 and 1975 in more than 25 cities in the Northeast, Midwest and West by photojournalists, artists and activists who include Bob Adelman, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Brittin, Diana Davies, Jack Delano, Leonard Freed, Don Hogan Charles, Gordon Parks, Art Shay, Morgan and Marvin Smith, and Maria Varela. Together, their photographs offer a broader and more complex view of the American civil rights movement than is usually presented by the media.
In the book’s epilogue, Speltz connects earlier photographs of the civil rights movement with the cellphone imagery that documents the black struggle of today. He writes, “Their recurring themes should remind us that racism and concerted efforts to roll back hard-won civil rights gains persist. The ongoing and constantly evolving struggle against police brutality and militarism, entrenched poverty, institutionalized racism, and everyday micro aggressions suggests that photographs will continue to play a crucial role in documenting the struggle and advancing the much-needed dialogue around it.”
"North of Dixie" reveals the power of photography to preserve historical memory, impact social consciousness, and stimulate critical dialogue among everyone interested in social justice, human rights, American history, the African-American civil rights movement, black studies and photojournalism.
Speltz is an author and historian who writes about civil rights photography, vernacular architecture, and Wisconsin culture and history. He is currently a senior historian at American Girl in Wisconsin.
Newly released in November 2016, the book ‘North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South‘ by Mark Speltz, with a preface by Deborah Willis, is available at Getty Publications.