About Civil Rights Photography

1960’s civil rights photography in Mississippi and California

As an activist photographer, Harvey Richards shot 1960’s civil rights images in California and Mississippi.

In 1963 and again in the spring of 1964, Harvey Richards travelled into rural Mississippi at the invitation of Amzie Moore, a Mississippi NAACP movement leader, to help publicize voter registration activities. Three films resulted: We’ll Never Turn BackFreedom Bound, and Dream Deferred. The making of these films is the subject the essay “Primary Source Documentaries: The Making of We’ll Never Turn Back (1963) and Dream Deferred (1964)” by Paul Richards, Ph.D. available on this web site.

Harvey Richards photography in Mississippi started in 1959 when he drove through the state at a time when he was dodging a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunters.  He took his Leica 35 mm camera with him, photographing along the way, presented in the gallery of color images of African American people and homes in the state.

He returned to Mississippi four years later in 1963, and then again in 1964, at the invitation of Amzie Moore to make two films, We’ll Never Turn BackDream Deferred, about the voter registration drives in Mississippi. He did very little still photography during these trips.  The photos that came back with him were of the leaders of the voter registration drives, people like Amzie Moore, E.W. Steptoe, Bob Moses, Julian Bond, Hollis Watkins, Mable Lee Roosevelt and others.

Bay Area Civil Rights Demonstrations

Harvey Richards’ documentaries provided support to civil right activists during the 1960’s in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the South. He filmed the historic march down Market Street (Freedom March) in San Francisco in 1963 to support the freedom movement in Birmingham, Alabama just before the church bombing that killed four children.

In Decision in the Streets, he filmed the sit-in protests against racial discrimination in hiring at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, at Mel’s Drive-in Restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco and in the auto dealerships along Van Ness Avenue in downtown San Francisco in 1964. And when protesters marched against police brutality in the Bay Area, or sat-in on the Berkeley campus of the University of California campus in defense of the right to raise funds for civil rights (the Free Speech Movement), Richards was there.

Returning to California from Mississippi in the spring of 1963, Harvey turned his cameras on the civil rights protests going on in the San Francisco Bay area. His Bay Area civil rights images were shot during the making of Freedom March, and Decision in the Streets about California civil rights protests.  He photographed demonstrations against police brutality, protests against discrimination in hiring and in support of the freedom movement in the South.

The supporters of the southern freedom movement (like Jack Weinberg) were instrumental in igniting the Free Speech Movement on the Berkeley campus of the University of California when the administration attempted to stop fundraising efforts for civil rights causes on campus.  As the war in Vietnam heated up, civil rights activists facing the draft turned their attentions to protesting the war.  Harvey’s cameras followed them into the anti-war movement which dominated his photogrpahy in the Bay Area for the next few years.