restricted access Bob Fletcher
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239 Bob Fletcher Bob Fletcher became interested in photography while an undergraduate at Fisk University. He had always been drawn to the arts, but when his parents gave him a subscription to Norman Cousins’s Saturday Review of Literature, which featured the work of contemporary photographers like Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith and the images of the Farm Security Administration, he decided to try it himself. In 1963, while in graduate school, Fletcher spent the summer in Harlem as an organizer for the Harlem Education Project (HEP), an affiliate of the Northern Student Movement, and began photographing HEP activities and Harlem life. At the end of the summer, he took a year off from school to continue working with HEP. During the year, he was arrested while photographing a picket line and spent a night in the “Tombs,” New York’s infamous holding facility. In jail, he decided to become an education volunteer for the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. “I thought, if I’m going to spend a night in jail for this bullshit, I’m going to go someplace where being in jail means something.” In Mississippi, Fletcher met the photographers of the Southern Documentary Project (SDP) and Cliff Vaughs, who was covering the Summer Project for SNCC. He gave up the idea of teaching and started traveling with Vaughs and documenting the activities of independent black farmers living in the Harmony community in Leake County, Mississippi. “I learned how to photograph in that process,” Fletcher noted, “so my early photography was not that good because I didn’t understand when to switch lenses or what lenses to use.” At the end of the summer, Fletcher accompanied the MFDP delegation to Atlantic City. In the following year, he became a SNCC photographer, and he covered the demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, leading up to “Bloody Sunday” and its aftermath, the Selma to Montgomery march. In 1966, Fletcher photographed the Meredith March and, later, covered the Lowndes County Freedom Organization ’s Freedom Vote. Also, from late 1965 to the fall of 1968, he worked with the Southern Visual Education Service, a SNCC media project established to develop filmstrips and related materials to be used as organizing tools. 240 In this role, he worked with Maria Varela to produce If You Farm, You Can Vote, a filmstrip designed to organize black cotton farmers and teach them how to vote in the federally funded cotton allotment elections (a benefit reserved until then for white farmers), and Something of Our Own, a publication that encouraged local okra farmers to join the West Batesville, Mississippi, Farmers Co-op. In 1968 Fletcher relocated to New York City. Over the next two decades, he made his living as a professional photographer and documentary filmmaker. In 1987, he enrolled at the New York University law school and began a second career. Upon completion of his studies, he took the bar exam and began practicing law in New York. Currently , he’s also licensed to practice in Texas, Florida, and New Jersey, and he commutes between the offices of his firm in New York and Florida. ...


Subject Headings

  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.) -- History.
  • Political activists -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Photographers -- Political activity -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Southern States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century -- Pictorial works.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century -- Pictorial works.
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Pictorial works.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -- 20th century -- Pictorial works.
  • Photographers -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Political activists -- United States -- Interviews.
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