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1968 Black Panthers, Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Barbara Easley Cox, Emory Douglas

1968 Pirkle Jones photo of Emory Douglas (SFAI Honorary Doctorate, 2019) and Barbara Easley (SFAI MacAgy Award, 2019); Black Panther National Headquarters, Oakland, 1969. [Photos: © Regents of the University of California. Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, University of California Santa Cruz]

Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch, two white photographers who studied with Ansel Adams in the first photo classes at the School in 1946, were radicalized by antiwar and civil rights protests in the 1960s.  Their good friend, mentor, and teacher, Dorothea Lange insisted that they “take a stand” when approaching their work.  In 1968 Baruch was disturbed by the media and press demonizing the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and wanted to respond to this unjust narrative.  Ruth-Marion approached Panther leaders Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver who suggested she take pictures at a July 1968 “Free Huey Rally” in Oakland’s De Fremery Park.   After showing their first photos to Eldridge, he said, “Why do your photos have feeling, when none of the work I’ve seen by other photographers, have?”  Years later Panther co-founder, Elbert “Big Man” Howard said that Pirkle and Ruth-Marion “had a great eye for humanity…they captured the real love and inspiration of what the Black Panther Party was all about.”

Pirkle’s and Ruth-Marion’s photos were used in the Black Panther Newspaper and then shown in a controversial exhibition at the DeYoung Museum opening in December 1968 prior to it travelling the following Spring to the Studio Museum in Harlem where it was their first photography exhibition.

And for more on Pirkle’s and Ruth-Marion’s The Black Panthers: A Photo Essay see:

And a nice video about Emory Douglas, Black Panther Minister of Culture:

With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.


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