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New Stanford library archive features civil rights movement

A new Stanford Libraries archive will feature images from critical moments in recent American history, including the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Approximately 200 photos from the Bob Fitch Photography Archive are now available online in Searchworks through Stanford Libraries. The entire archive includes around 200,000 images.

The photos will be made available for a variety of purposes. Ten thousand of the photos will be preserved in the Stanford Digital Repository for academic purposes like research and teaching.

A number of the photos will also be part of an exhibition called “Movements for Change: the Bob Fitch Photography Archive at Stanford.” The exhibition will open in September at Peterson Gallery of the Green Library.

Fitch, who was a photojournalist for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s, captured subjects ranging from Cesar Chavez, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association, to Coretta Scott King, a leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Roberto Trujillo, the head of the special collections at Stanford Libraries and co-curator of the archive, told the Stanford News Service that Fitch captured Chavez’s organizing efforts over seven years.

“Some of the photographs are intimate and offer a glimpse behind the headlines of their time,” Trujillo said.

Fitch’s photos of Chavez and the United Farmworkers Union will also expand the Stanford Libraries’ Mexican American collections, which is already the largest of its kind in the nation.

In addition to documenting the civil rights movement, Fitch also stood at the forefront of media coverage of the social tumult. Benjamin Lee Stone, curator of American and British history and co-curator of the Fitch archive, told the Stanford News Service that Fitch documented events of the time for African American news outlets in high-risk situations.

Fitch’s work has also left a nationwide legacy: one of his photos also served as the basis for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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