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Akron through lens of early African-American photographer

02/05/2014

Opie Evans postcard


The photography of Opie Evans, local reporter, broadcaster, publisher, businessman and one of the earliest African-American photographers in Akron, will be on display at The University of Akron's Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron's Black History and Culture, starting Monday, Feb. 10, with an opening reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. His photography documents the local African-American community, in addition to other segments of the city’s population, from the mid-1940s through the early 1970s.   
 
The exhibit, titled "This is Akron with Opie Evans: The Rubber City as Seen Through the Lens of One of Its Earliest African-American Photographers," is part of UA's Rethinking Race series. It will feature 58 photographs selected from a larger body of Evans' work. The exhibit, which was guest curated by S. Victor Fleischer, university archivist, head of archival services and associate professor, is a collaboration of UA's McClain Gallery, Pan-African Center for Community Studies and Archival Services of University Libraries.

Opie Evans

Photographer Opie Evans in action.


Evans captured the work and leisure of the local population — especially African-Americans —from every walk of life from the end of the Second World War through the civil rights era. This included African-American leaders and professionals, in addition to the indigent and working class. Among them are Elks, beauty salon operators, models, pastors, lawyers, brick layers, rubber workers, families, the elderly and children.

Some of the most important and historically significant images document the local civil rights movement, while others feature legendary athletes, performers and political figures, both black and white. Prominent individuals of national acclaim photographed by Evans during visits to Akron include Count Basie, James Brown, Whitney Young, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
 
The exhibit will be presented in eight sections based on themes or subject matter Evans photographed during his career. These are the Photographer; Religion; Politics; the Civil Rights Movement; Labor and Industry; Organizations; Sports, Arts, and Entertainment; and Children.
 
"The photographs are incredibly significant as they were taken by one of the earliest African-American photographers in Akron and one of only a few operating in the city during the middle of the last century," says Fleischer. "The images are also significant because they visually document an important and transitional time in the city's and the nation's history and capture a segment of the local population that is seldom documented elsewhere.”


About Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron's Black History and Culture

The Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron’s Black History and Culture, which opened in 1994, is located in the Buckingham Center for Continuing Education on The University of Akron campus at 220 Wolf Ledges Parkway, Akron, Ohio 44320-1801.  Since its opening the gallery has sponsored two major art exhibits and five historical exhibits. The work of the gallery remains a collaboration between the community and the University. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; admission is free.  For further information, visit the Dr. Shirla McClain Gallery online.

About The University of Akron's Archival Services

Archival Services, which is part of University Libraries, collects, preserves and provides access to historic resources that primarily document the history of The University of Akron and the region. The department is open to students, faculty, staff and the general public, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To learn more, visit Archival Services online.


Media contact: Sarah Lane, 330-972-7429 or slane@uakron.edu.