We noted his passing in October of 2007.
But the other day, when Stan Banos sent me this stark little notice from Democracy Now!, I was shocked. Ernest Withers, who was an important photographer of the Civil Rights Movement in America, might also have been a traitor to that cause. Clerical errors in FBI documents released to the public have indicated that Withers was a paid FBI informant from at least 1968 (and possibly earlier) to 1970.
Withers had insider status and close access to the movement and its leaders. One of his pictures shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reclining on a bed at the Lorraine Motel with a newspaper.
The importance of Withers' pictures won't diminish. But his reputation might well be tarnished by this.
(Thanks to Stan)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by robert landrigan: "I still don't know how to feel about this—as a middle-class white kid with no real concept of hardship, I was lucky to get a chance to work with Mr. Withers on two jobs. I also was privileged to stand in his darkroom, and on finding a negative from the Sanitation marches in Memphis, he spoke at length about the marches, Dr. King, that horrible day at the Lorraine motel. Over two or three afternoons I got more instruction in photography (he used a set of battered Minoltas for 35, and Mamiya TLRs for weddings, etc.—i.e., gear ain't important) and in how to be a man than I got from four years of high school. Every one of his kids went to college. He took care of his family, never left his neighborhood or roots, and loved his wife and treated her like the Queen she was.
"He was a good man, and a I learned a great deal from him. I don't think I wanted to learn this."