Black History Month in Harvard Square

Harvard Square celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with an extraordinary eyewitness photographic view through the camera lens of Ernest Withers, now recognized as one of the most important African American photographers of the late 20th Century. Withers’ photographs pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement through key moments in history.

This display, rarely seen beyond gallery and museum collections, is currently presented for public viewing in the Windows of Harvard Square Businesses, through February 28th in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the Inauguration of Barak Obama (the 44th President of the United States of America) and Black History Month.

“Ernest Withers would have been tickled pink to know that his photographs were overlooking Harvard Square. We took a walk together through Harvard Yard and Harvard Square in the mid 90’s, and true to form, he greeted everyone in his path, as do his photographs now. His farewell salutation was always, ‘Be the best you can be.'”

– Tony Decaneas, Panopticon Gallery

The selection of photographs taken by Ernest C. Withers is on display in the windows of The Cambridge Savings Bank (the former Alpha Omega Jewelry Store) located at 1380 Massachusetts Avenue, the Harvard Coop 1400 Massachusetts Avenue, and Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe located at 6 Brattle Street in Harvard Square. Robert Wilson, President of the Cambridge Savings Bank was pleased to provide the Window Gallery Space for the majority of the Wither’s Photo Collection.

The Tribute in Spoken Words at 1:00 pm on January 19th will include a recitation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a Dream Speech presented by Cambridge Police Officer Carl Pilgrim, accompanied by 4 students from Community Charter School of Cambridge, Courtney Johnson, Alyesse Rahman, Steven Rodenas, and Dina Theodore. Officer Pilgrim and the students will read the speech in its entirety and will be joined by Professor Ifeanyi A. Menkiti who will offer a Poetic Tribute to Dr. King with excerpts from Poetry and Dr. King’s speeches. Prof. Menkiti, a longtime Cantabrigian has taught moral philosophy at Wellesley since 1973. He is also a poet and the owner of the Grolier Poetry Bookstore, the oldest all poetry bookstore in America, established in Harvard Square in 1927. The Spoken Words Tribute will take place in front of Out of Town News at 1:00 pm.

About Ernest C. Withers

Considered one of the most important African American photographers of the late 20th century, Ernest C. Withers documented the Civil Rights Movement in the South, as well as the Memphis Beale Street Blues scene, Black Memphis society, and the twilight years of Negro League Baseball. His work was published widely in the African American newspapers and magazines, and more recently appeared in Time, The New York Times, and Newsweek. Withers passed away in October 2007 and was featured in The New York Times Magazine annual “Lives They Lived” issue that pays tribute to the year’s notable deaths. His work is included in major private and public collections, including the NY Public Library Schomburg Center, the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the High Museum, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Selected Monographs: • Let Us March On! Selected Civil Rights Photographs of Ernest C. Withers, 1955-1968 (1992), Massachusetts College of Art • Pictures Tell the Story: Ernest C. Withers Reflections in History (2000), Chrysler Museum of Art • The Memphis Blues Again: Six Decades of Memphis Music Photographs (2001), Viking Studio (a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.) • Negro League Baseball (2005), Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

About Panopticon Gallery

Founded in 1971, Panopticon Gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the United States dedicated solely to photography. The gallery specializes in 20th Century American photography and emerging contemporary photography. The gallery is the exclusive agent for the estates of Ernest C. Withers and Bradford Washburn.

Panopticon Gallery is located in the Hotel Commonwealth at 502c Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.