Book Review: Behold the People

Ordinary black lives recorded

A wonderful slice of North Dallas life seen through the lens of newspaper snapper RC Hickman. What gives these photos additional credence is the coverage of the NAACP activities in Texas. Hickman was regarded by the organization as their official photographer in the area and there are several photos that reveal the depth of segregation, obviously not normally covered by white media . Plate sixty-nine, from 1958, shows two black ambulance men lifting a body into their vehicle. The murder victim wasn't allowed, by the police, to go to hospital in a white run ambulance, he had to wait for the black unit.

Though the photos are straight reportage newspaper style, I thought most of them fascinating because of the amount of detail they contained about black life. Hickman covered it all but strangely he didn't remain a professional photographer. In his sixties he tried other job interests, he died in 2007.

The 109 photos are one to a page with generous margins and they all have captions and nicely short comments from Hickman. Though the cropping of the photos varies quite a lot I thought it was a pity that the they are only reproduced with a 175 screen. The quality is there and they would look superb as high screen duotones on a good matt art.

Hickman, as a newspaper photographer, wasn't as famous as Charles 'Teenie' Harris of the Pittsburgh Courier paper (he gets a mention in the definitive: Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present) but you just have to look at these photos to realize he deserves a place in American photographic history because of his thoughtful coverage of the Dallas black community.

BEHOLD THE PEOPLE (Barker Texas History Center Series) is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Title spread.

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Left: editorial offices of the Star Post, 1958.

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Pressmen at work on the Dallas Star Post, 1959.

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OK, not the best composition or cropping but both photos have a ton of detail about past times.

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RC Hickman in action.

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Segregated school.

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