Please join us on Thursday, January 15, 6-7:30 p.m., for an opening reception at the Forest Park Branch Library, 380 Belmont Avenue, Springfield. On display will be large prints of a number of photographs of Springfield’s history featured in the book, The Struggle for Freedom: the History of African Americans in Western Massachusetts. We shine a spotlight on local photographers from the turn of the 20th century to the turn of the 21st century. The photos highlight local Springfield heroes and dignitaries, as well as key moments from its rich tapestry of African American life.
One of the featured photographers, J.B. Bradley, published a magazine called Chat, which was produced throughout the 1960s, 70s and into the 80s, when his son, J.B. Bradley, Jr. took over. Both father and son wished to portray their culture in a positive light – also the goal of the exhibit, which focuses on freedom’s rewards: the right to be oneself, to live, work, love, and attain an education.
Bradley would take photos of all types of events, particularly those showing the social life of African Americans in Springfield, Mass. and Hartford, Conn. He photographed famous entertainers such as Della Reese and Chubby Checker, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Muhammad Ali. He sent copies of his magazine to former Springfield and Hartford natives around the world, who subscribed in order to get the news from their hometown.
Sports figures are also well represented both in the book and in this exhibit. Record-breaking track star Howard Drew, who accomplished many “firsts” in African American history, is pictured in a 1913 photo of Springfield High School’s track team.
A more recent photo, taken by Michael Gordon, shows seventeen year-old Omarthan Clark painting a self-portrait. Omarthan is now a working artist, presently a Graduate Teaching Associate at Ohio State University.
Special thanks to the Springfield Republican, Wayne Phaneuf and Marianna McKee for providing the photographs for the exhibit.
The exhibit will run from Thursday, January 15 through the end of February 2015.