Ernest Withers was a civil rights-era photojournalist who had access to some of the highest levels of the movement; over the weekend, we learned that Withers may have used his extraordinary access to sell information to the FBI, perceived enemies of the movement’s leaders.
Withers’ images are famous for the level of intimacy and access he could achieve with such leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or the death and trial of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Although Withers died in 2007 at the age of 85, last weekend’s revelations open a new chapter in his story and we want to know: how does this new information change our perception of his impressive body of work?
For that we speak with Earl Caldwell, a former national correspondent for The New York Times who worked alongside Withers, and Deborah Willis, artist, photo historian and professor of Photography and Imaging at Tisch School for the Arts at New York University.
Ernest Withers' iconic photo "I Am A Man," depicting a garbage collectors' strike in Memphis in 1968.