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Witnesses to civil rights-era life

Explore the Briscoe Center’s R.C. Hickman and Calvin Littlejohn photo collections that chronicle Texas’ dynamic African American communities.

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The Briscoe Center for American History is home to the R.C. Hickman and Calvin Littlejohn collections, two important photographic archives for the study of African American and Texas history.

Hickman (1922-2007) covered Dallas. Littlejohn (1909-1993) worked in Ft. Worth. The photos in the slideshow document the parallel themes in the work of Littlejohn and Hickman, both of whom documented the Texas cities’ dynamic African American communities in the decades following World War II.

Like other photojournalist collections at the Briscoe Center, the work of Hickman and Littlejohn present evidence for historical research, capturing a visual social history of African American life during the civil rights era. Both covered crucial moments in the struggle for civil rights, including visits by leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall. The photographers also captured celebrities and entertainers who passed through their respective towns. But their work was largely about the everyday life of their subjects: civic involvement, church life and high school homecomings, thriving businesses and family gatherings.

Barbara Jordan’s statement about Hickman’s work can apply to Littlejohn’s as well: “Here is an historically significant record of accomplished, hard-working black middle-class citizens living in the urban South. Overcoming the many obstacles in their way in those years before civil rights legislation made fundamental changes, [they] played and won by the rules, despite the fact that their color meant they were often denied the rights and respect due them.”

Visit the Briscoe Center’s website for more information on the Hickman and Littlejohn collections and to explore other photojournalist holdings.

More slideshows from the Briscoe Center: