The Briscoe Center’s vast collections enable us to contemplate the significance of Black History Month from a number of angles and perspectives. Black Power is perhaps one of the most controversial and misunderstood. This month, the center opened a new exhibit of work prints from the newly acquired Stephen Shames Photographic Archive.
Shames was the Black Panther Party’s photographer between 1967 and 1973. Since then he has gone on to an award-winning career focused on documenting social issues across America. Today, Shames remains friends with Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Panthers. Earlier this month Seale and Shames visited the center and participated in a program organized for students and faculty at the university. I’d like to thank Steve and Bobby for the time they spent on campus, as well as Steven Kasher (a good friend of the center who owns and operates the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City) for participating in the program.
You can watch the program below:
The Shames display replaces the expanded version of From Commemoration to Education, which remains in the exhibit hall as an enhanced digital interactive exhibit. Struggle for Justice: Four Decades of Civil Rights Photography also remains on display in the exhibit gallery through the rest of the semester. (In the fall of 2018, we plan to have an exhibit related to news media history. A music history exhibit will follow in the spring of 2019.)
Like so many of the center’s photographic collections, the Shames archive captures aspects of one of the most tumultuous years in American history: 1968. An election year, ’68 stands out: riots, assassinations, resignations and innovations, as well as many other events have left a deep imprint on the American psyche. Furthermore, the Vietnam War, Prague Spring, and Paris riots show how the year’s impact was global. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of ’68, the center will launch a special webpage in March that documents the year’s flashpoints month by month.
In other news, the center’s statue of Stephen F. Austin has been restored, repaired, and is now back on display in the reading room. I’m delighted to say that the cleaning process brought out previously hidden details, especially regarding the map of Texas that Austin holds. The center’s statue is a plaster study of the finished marble on display at the Texas State Capitol. Come visit the center’s reading room and see for yourself!
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History