By Nicole Veenstra
After being invited to share his extensive knowledge on photojournalism during the civil rights era, Dr. Shawn Kildea, assistant professor of communication, traveled to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa as a William Randolph Hearst Scholar in Residence.
From Sept. 22-24, he visited the university to screen the film he co-produced, Stills of the Movement: The Civil Rights Photojournalism of Flip Schulke, and to talk about it afterwards during a panel discussion with faculty and students.
The 32-minute documentary creatively details the career of Schulke, the famous photographer who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and tells the story of his involvement in various riots and protests.
William Randolph Hearst, an influential journalist and publisher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, established the Hearst award and foundation.
“He was the creator of yellow journalism,” Kildea said. “He wanted to be remembered for something besides tabloids though, so he started the foundation.”
Kildea’s interest in Graeme “Flip” Schulke originated because Schulke “had a relationship with some people from Rider [and] he got his honorary doctorate here.”
In addition to his photography, Kildea also expressed a deep interest in Schulke’s works.
“He left his digital archives to Rider, so I started to read his books,” Kildea said. “The books were really compelling to read.”
Kildea calls Schulke’s life “Forrest Gump-esque,” comparing Schulke’s experiences of traveling around the country with an important figure in the 20th century to some of the stories told in the movie.
Schulke was an important figure during the Civil Rights Movement and throughout the 1960s. He began to gain popularity after becoming close friends with King, whom he then followed around, documenting his life through photos for more than a decade. Schulke dove headfirst into the movement, becoming a part of the speeches, demonstrations, protests and everything else that King was involved in.
Schulke also photographed national and international figures including former President John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro and Muhammad Ali. He died in West Palm Beach, Fla., in May of 2008.
Schulke’s story was so unique because during King’s time period, one would hardly ever have seen a white man with a black man.
“He just had the personality that made people trust him,” Kildea said.
He was able to document not only King’s side of the movement, but also George Walsh’s, the governor of Alabama at the time.
Although the purpose of the trip was to show the film and further the viewers’ knowledge, it ended up being a huge learning experience as well, according to Kildea.
Before going to the University of Alabama, he had never spent time in the “deep south.”
“All of my notions of what the deep south was like is because of the movies,” he said. “It is nothing like you would expect.”
Kildea went on to explain that the people were some of the nicest he had ever met.
As well as having the opportunity to screen the film at the University, Kildea also showed the documentary at the University of Miami and Moorhouse College last spring. Moorhouse was a significant moment for him because that is where King attended college. He also shot part of the film at Moorhouse the previous year.