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Eyes on the Civil Rights Era

Photojournalists R.C. Hickman and Calvin Littlejohn documented African-American communities in Dallas and Fort Worth in the decades following World War II. See a slideshow.

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

Hickman (1922-2007) covered Dallas. Littlejohn (1909-1993) worked in Fort 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.

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The Rhone Family Papers, a collection of photographs and documents that share aspects of the lives of members of a central Texas black family from 1886 to 1971.