Friday 30 January 2015

Narrative images: World Press Photo of the Year 1957

In 1957, Douglas Martin's photograph of Dorothy Counts became World Press Photo of the Year, "the most prestigious and coveted award in photojournalism" (via).

On 4th of September 1957, Dorothy Counts walked to Harry Harding High School, in Charlotte, North Carolina (via). She was one of four black US-American children to be admitted to integrated schools in Charlotte (via) and the first black US-American to attend the all-white school Harding High (via). When she arrived, the street was blocked and she walked more than two blocks to the entrance, surrounded by students and adults harrassing her with racial slurs, throwing trash at her (via), taunting, insulting and spitting on her (via). John Z. Warlick, leader of the white supremacist organisation White Citizens Council which was mainly founded to oppose ethnic integration through severe intimidation tactics, had urged boys to keep her out and girls to spit on her. This was her first day at school. She was only fifteen and "stood tall, her five-foot-ten-inch frame towering nobly above the mob that trailed her" (via). At school, the harrassment continued, her family received threatening phone calls, a car was smashed ... Finally, her father decided to withdraw her after only four days (via).
"It is with compassion for our native land and love for our daughter Dorothy that we withdraw her as a student at Harding High School. As long as we felt she could be protected from bodily injury and insults within the school’s walls and upon the school premises, we were willing to grant her desire to study at Harding." (via)

In 2008, Harding University awarded her an honorary diploma. Two years later it renamed its media centre in honour of Dorothy Counts (via). The same year, she received a public apology from Woody Cooper who had been part of the crowd in 1957 (via). 53 years after her first school day, Dorothy and Woody met in the "Garden of Forgiveness" on the "Red Bench of Love".
By the way, today, Harding High School is predominantly black (via).

photographs via and via and via and by Don Sturkey via and via and via and via and via and via, colour photographs via and via