Cecil J. Williams: Photographing History

I was super excited about this Museum Monday Feature. It's a big deal for my inner nerd. Let's just say I had a mini starstruck moment. I'll save the excitement for last. You must stay till the end to find out why...Hey, I have to keep you here some way.

Let’s dive into the Self-made photographer...
Cecil J. Williams

Cecil Williams is not only the owner and founder of the only Civil Rights Museum in South Carolina, but he also provided the world with the most comprehensive collection of photographs documenting the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. He is the definition of Self-made. Acquiring a hand-me-down camera at the age of nine, Cecil began his career in photography and never looked back. By the time he was a teenager, he was doing freelance work for Jet magazine and The Baltimore Afro-American publication. His image of Coretta Scott King speaking at a worker's strike in Charleston appeared on the cover in 1969. He also photographed the churches of Clarendon County-which held one of the families of the five cases combined into the Brown v. Board of Education.

I must admit that my fingers and mind are running a mile a minute while typing this blog post. I’m blown away with what I’ve discovered on Mr. Williams. I want to include it all, but I'll have an entire book by the end. Although there are multiple publications on his work, they do not fully capture everything he has accomplished. Williams dedicated his life to capture the determination and perseverance of the African American community. His herculean task continues to this day at the age of 83, and it's honestly commendable. I'm 27, and I've been tired of the nonsense.

Next to holding the title of photographer, he is also an author and inventor!! As mentioned earlier, Williams has been photographing since the age of nine, meaning he has accumulated millions of negatives. Since I am coming from a museum collections background, I am highly aware of the rapid deterioration of negatives. It's heart breaking to see the cracking and damage in the image. Williams was determined to find a way to preserve his legacy and history, so he invented the FilmToaster. The device is a photographic mechanism that takes a photo of the negatives in less than a few seconds and then converts it into a digital format. 

He told me all about his invention when I spoke with him...That’s right, I got a chance to speak with him! Ekkk!! I’m happy I take risk and chances; I simply inquired about his museum, and one thing led to the next. He then asked if he could list my website as a resource on the museum’s website. I wanted to say, “uhhhh-HECK YEAH”, but I kept my cool and gave consent.




Check out the Civil Rights Museum website. Although the museum is closed, the virtual tour is very comprehensive. 

-Happy Black History Month! 


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