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Injustice in Focus

The Civil Rights Photography of Cecil Williams

Cecil Williams and Claudia Smith Brinson



Published: Jan 9 2024


Published: Jan 9 2024

OA Ebook
Published: Jan 9 2024


OA Ebook funding provided by:

The powerful life story and photography of an esteemed Black photojournalist from Orangeburg, South Carolina

Cecil Williams is one of the few Southern Black photojournalists of the civil rights movement. Born and raised in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Williams worked at the center of emerging twentieth-century civil rights activism in the state, and his assignments often exposed him to violence perpetrated by White law officials and ordinary citizens. Williams's story is the story of the civil rights era.

Williams and award-winning journalist Claudia Smith Brinson combine forces in Injustice in Focus: The Civil Rights Photography of Cecil Williams. Together they document civil rights activism in the 1940s through the 1960s in South Carolina. Williams was there, in South Carolina, to witness and document pivotal movements such as then-NAACP legal counsel Thurgood Marshall's arrival in Charleston to argue the landmark case Briggs v. Elliott and the aftermath of the infamous Orangeburg Massacre.

Featuring eighty stunning photographs accompanied by Brinson's rich research, interviews, and prose, Injustice in Focus offers a firsthand account of South Carolina's fight for civil rights and describes Williams's life behind the camera as a documentarian of the civil rights movement.

Cecil Williams was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in 1937. At nine years old he became fascinated with photography after his older brother passed down a Baby Brownie Special. Williams dedicated himself to photographing civil rights activism, which he called a "journey toward freedom, justice, and equality" for Black publications such as Jet, Ebony, and the Crisis, and for white-owned newspapers through the Associated Press. In 2019 he founded the Cecil Williams South Carolina Civil Rights Museum, which preserves and exhibits photographs, documents, and artifacts from the state's civil rights activists. It is the state's first and only civil rights museum. Williams lives in Orangeburg, SC.

Claudia Smith Brinson is an award-winning ournalist with more than thirty years of experience at newspapers in Greece, Florida, and South Carolina. Brinson spent most of her journalism career with Knight Ridder at The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, while also freelancing for national publications. She is the author of Stories of Struggle: The Clash over Civil Rights in South Carolina (University of South Carolina Press). Brinson lives in Columbia, SC.

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