November 7, 2013

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The new exhibit “Pictures Tell the Story” at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center of 60 images from the remarkable work of Dr. Ernest C. Withers is part of an equally remarkable story. 

Working primarily for black newspapers such as the Tri-State Defender and Amsterdam News from the ’40s-’70s, Dr. Withers, according to the BCC, “documented the dusty ball fields of the Negro Diamond Baseball League and the popular athletes prevented from playing in the all-white majors. 

He photographed the roadhouses and ballrooms where Howling Wolf, Tina Tuner and Elvis were making music that would revolutionize society by bringing black and white kids together.”

During this same time, the BCC tells us, he was “the primary visual chronicler of the parallel society blacks occupied below the Mason-Dixon line. [He] shot an estimated 5 million exposures of a changing South and the people who shaped those changes. Withers’ works are highly respected internationally and have been featured in many books and publications.”

The exhibit opened Nov. 1 in the museum gallery and is on view until Mar. 1, 2014. Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. MLK Blvd. (423) 266-8658,

— Staff

November 7, 2013

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