A Face in the Crowd

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningSarah Boumphrey, assistant to the office of the president of Ohio University, contacted me this afternoon. I thought it might be to let me know that they were finally going to give me my degree, but that wasn’t it.

She said that one of the faces in the crowd in my Martin Luther King, Jr., National Day of Mourning photos belonged to a young man who would eventually become the president of the university, and she wanted permission to Tweet it to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.

Here it is in context

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningThe man who would become president, Dr. Roderick J. McDavis is on the right side of the photo. Follow the brick column straight down until you see a man in a white coat (Sarah thought he looked a little like Sean Penn). Dr. McDavis to behind and to his left.

You can click on the photo to make it larger.

Who would have thought?

MLK Day of Mourning Catalog Show 02-27-2013The young man at the podium, James Steele, led a peaceful sit-in at the intersection of the town’s main drag, Court and Union Streets at the close of the memorial service.

He told the Ohio University Post in 2012, “It would have been hard for me to be persuaded that there would be a black president of OU (today). We can talk so much about the remaining problems and difficulties that we can lose sight of how profound some of the progress has been.”

Where do we go from here?

Ohio University Martin Luther King Day of MourningAfter the sit-in broke up, a few tattered signs remained behind, including one that is asking the question we’re still asking today, “Where do we go from here?”

The tight head shot of Dr. McDavis will be linked to this 2012 post which contains more photos and a more complete description of what happened on that Sunday, April 7, 1968, day when the nation was reeling in shock.

In 2013, the photographs were part of “Dawn of Mourning,” presented by Sigma Gamma Rho, Inc. in conjunction with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, the Foster and Helen Cornwell Lecture Series, University College, the Campus Involvement Center, The Athens Messenger and The Post. Here is a catalog of the photos in the show.



3 Replies to “A Face in the Crowd”

  1. Dr. Steinhoff,
    Perhaps I’ve been known to ‘give you a hard time’ occasionally… all in good fun, but I must take off my hat to you… yet again. What are the odds of the future President of the university showing up in your poignant pictures of that historical day… and being an African American. You are so right – society is so busy moaning and complaining about what remains to be done on civil rights….. that the enormous strides that have been achieved are neglected or purposely ‘over-looked’. But if ‘progress’ was the big story…. the professional race-baiters would be out of a job.
    I missed your original blog on MLK Day of Mourning in April 2013 but just ‘clicked’ on your: “more photos and a more complete description of what happened on that Sunday, April 7, 1968” in the description above and read it.
    Wow! That was really strong Ken. Talk about being in the right place at the right time…. Lady Fate had her hand on your shoulder through those events. Well done!… again.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Brad.

      I’ve always been pleased with my shooting that day. I liked that the photos are taken from so many different vantage points, and that I was front-and-center when a hot-headed cop almost turned a solemn event into a violent confrontation like that town had never seen before.

      You can see in the pictures that there were lots of students running around with cameras, but I doubt that any of them have as complete a picture of the day as I do. And, more importantly, held onto the film for 46 years.

      (Hey, it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.)

  2. A steller job as usual, Ken. OU has turned out some outstanding (and award winning) news photographers over the years.

    As for your degree, I’m sure it’s lost in the mail. It only took me another twenty years to get mine after I dropped out to take a TV directing job in Columbus. I’ve never been sorry I did.

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