Celebrated Photo Exhibit Comes to Natchez

For the first time ever, renowned photographer and activist Roy Lewis brings a 50-year collection home to Mississippi.

Roy Lewis Self Portrait
Photo: Roy Lewis

You can experience “EVERYWHERE with Roy Lewis,” featuring 50 years’ worth of the famed documentarian’s images, July 1 through August 31 at the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s a rare opportunity to see Lewis’s striking images of African American culture in the town where he grew up. Admission is free, and the exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. (For weekend hours, call the museum at 601/445-0728).

After launching at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in 2008, “EVERYWHERE” traveled to the Du Sable Museum of African American History in Chicago and the Armour J. Blackburn University Center Gallery at Howard University in Washington, D.C. This is the first time that Lewis has brought it to his hometown.

Hailed both for his still photography and documentary videos, Lewis grew up on a Natchez plantation, where his father was a sharecropper. Following relatives to Chicago after his high school graduation, he got a job in the subscription department at Johnson Publishing but had to leave in 1960, when he was drafted. While in the army, he bought his very first camera—for $25—and began honing his skills. His career as a professional photojournalist was launched in 1964, when Jet Magazine published his image of jazz great Thelonious Monk. Lewis returned to Johnson Publishing when his military service ended but left in 1968 to take a job at Northeastern Illinois University, where he began filming student activities. In 1974, he filmed the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire, a video later featured in the film When We Were Kings. In 1995, he published The Million Man March and also contributed to the project Songs of My People.

Lewis’s assignments have included coverage of many Congressional Black Caucus conferences and events. His numerous awards include honors from the National Press Club and the National Press Photographers Association.

As a professional photojournalist, Lewis has traveled the globe, capturing key moments in the Civil Rights Movement and photographing such world leaders as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. “This exhibit shows people a new side of history in a way they haven’t previously seen,” Lewis explains. “When visitors walk through and see these images, they are gong to leave with a better understanding of how African American culture has evolved. These photos are my diary, and the exhibit tells an important story from a one-of-a-kind perspective.”

Lewis will attend the opening reception, which will be held at the museum Friday, July 1, at noon.  

Besides seeing the Lewis exhibit, you can enjoy lots of other attractions and special events in Natchez, which is celebrating its 300th birthday this year. The oldest continuous settlement on the Mississippi River, Natchez is a great place to explore Southern history and also enjoy an eclectic downtown with interesting shops, galleries and restaurants. visitnatchez.org