ERNEST C. WITHERS PHOTOGRAPHERS Established 1942
The Ernest C. Withers House Museum preserves the place, objects, images, and stories of a nationally significant Black photographer of the Civil Rights Movement within the context of his family home and Memphis neighborhood.
Dr. Ernest C.Withers Sr. (1922-2007)
Photojournalist Dr. Ernest C. Withers Sr. was born on August 7, 1922, in Memphis, Tennessee. Withers got his start as a military photographer while serving in the South Pacific during World War II. Upon returning to a segregated Memphis, Tennessee after the war, Withers chose photography as his profession.
Ernest C. Withers Sr. opened a commercial photography studio and worked as a freelance photojournalist for Black newspapers and magazines such as Ebony and Jet, as well as Newsweek and Time.
He photographed Negro Baseball League members including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Larry Doby, and Jackie Robinson. In 1955, Withers documented the trial of the two white men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, accused in the murder of Emmett Till.
In 1957 he photographed the nine Black students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Occasionally Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended some of the events he covered.
Withers and his sons took pictures of Memphis' famed Beale Street musicians, Rufus Thomas, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley. His work also captured the more ordinary life of Black Memphians.