California Countercultures: Civil Rights Movement Photography and Its Legacies, with Leigh Raiford

In fall 2010, just as it was announced that a museum would open to celebrate the life and work of famed civil rights movement photographer Ernest C. Withers, revelations surfaced that Withers had worked from at least 1968 to 1970 as a paid FBI informant. The debates that ensued about Withers's guilt or innocence revealed continuing anxieties about black heritage and the legacies and memory of the civil rights movement, on one hand, and about artistic intent and aesthetic value on the other. This talk explores what role photographyas document, as art, and as surveillance—played in the modern civil rights movement and how the medium continues to shape our memories of the "Second Reconstruction."

Leigh Raiford is associate professor of African American studies at UC Berkeley, where she also serves as affiliate faculty in the program in American studies and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. Raiford is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle and is coeditor with Renee Romano of The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory.

About California Countercultures
Thinking Through the Arts and Design at Berkeley: California Countercultures is a UC Berkeley course cotaught by Natasha Boas, independent curator and critic of contemporary art and theory, and Michael Cohen, associate teaching professor in the African American studies department. The Wednesday public lecture series is organized by Natasha Boas. California Countercultures is sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Big Ideas program and the Arts + Design Initiative, with additional support from Cal Performances and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.