Photo: Emily Pierce / The Daily Gamecock

Civil Rights photographer reflects on experience

Photographer, author, historian and inventor Cecil Williams spoke in the Hollings Program Room of Thomas Cooper Library about his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement and his corresponding art Wednesday. The presentation was something to behold, featuring a number of his photographs in PowerPoint format, with Williams taking time to describe each one.

Director of Multicultural Student Affairs Shay Malone introduced associate history professor Bobby Donaldson, who spoke of Williams’ experience in Civil Rights.

“'History must be rewritten when new truths are uncovered,'” Donaldson said, quoting Williams.

After the introduction, Williams himself took to the podium and started his talk, explaining that while most photographers were getting an outside view of the strikes, demonstrations, marches and speeches, he was getting an inside look at these events.

“As we build a Civil Rights Center here at USC, it important to have people like Mr. Williams. He’s a living legend in terms of Civil Rights; he lived it, he participated in it, and he’s still helping us tell the story,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson was referring in part to Williams’ invention, which converts film photographs to digital images. It’s called the Film Toaster, though no actual toasting of film is being done — Williams likened its appearance to that of a toaster, and the name stuck. This device is a milestone in preserving the past, as film has an expiration date.

Photographers, historians and students enjoyed the event.

“I see hundreds of events, but I’d like to see more of this nature,” said Zella Hilton, of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the Thomas Cooper Library.

The theme of the Civil Rights showcase may be summed up by a quote by Cecil Williams himself:

“Pictures can bring back these moments in time.” 

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