Civil Blues

With Civil Rights & The Memphis Blues social historian Ernest C. Withers (b. 1922) charts the struggle and soul of Memphis, Tennessee, in profound detail. The photos are taken during the fight for change in the eras of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, B. B. King and James Brown as they lead the charge for progress in America.

Chosen from over five million images taken during his lifetime, including his career as a former newspaper photographer, the compositions depict everyday life in the deep south throughout the 1950s and 1960s and tell a story of joy and shame from a time of living memory.

© Estate of Ernest C Withers. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Elvis-in his golden years-smirks amongst fans below a sign that reads “Profanity or Obscene Language Will Not Be Tolerated on this Stage’’ as Ike and Tina Turner dazzle crowds. Stills of pop stars and icons are interspersed with marches, church congregations, workers strikes and life lived in segregation, an all too vital chronicle to the great American crusades of the second half of the 20th century. 

Ernest C. Withers’ Civil Rights & The Memphis Blues uncovers the recent history of America’s deep south at Michael Hoppen Gallery. London, from 25 June to 30 August. Find out more here.

Lead Image, © Estate of Ernest C Withers. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery