skip navigation  The Library of Congress >> Research Centers
AFC Logo
The American Folklife Center
Connect with us:   Blog Blog  |  Facebook Facebook  |  Podcasts Podcasts   RSS RSS  | Video Webcasts
 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

John William McAfee collection

Repository: Memphis Public Library & Information Center

Collection Description (CRHP): This collection contains a number of significant materials related to the civil rights movement:
Box 1, Folder 14 contains materials mainly focused on school desegregation in Jackson, Mississippi. There are camera caption sheets for a sit-in rally in the city in mid-1963 as well as for the filming of the September 1964 desegregation of Jackson schools. In addition, there are photographs and information about security measures for the school desegregation. Box 2, Folder 1 contains a 48-page oral history of McAfee, but it is focused on his World War II service and does not deal with civil rights or racial matters. It is a copy of a transcript of an oral history done for the Oral History Research Office at the University of Memphis. Folder 6 contains news caption sheets he sent in for civil rights events in the 1960s. He filmed sit-ins, marches, school desegregation, violence, and other major happenings during this time. He also covered Martin Luther King Jr.'s trip to Memphis in April 1968 when King was murdered. Folder 10 includes information on the integration of Ole Miss by James Meredith. Folder 17 contains a photograph of Bill McAfee at the murder trial of Emmett Till. Box 4, Folder 2 contains a videotaped memoir (in VHS format) of McAfee.

Collection Description (Extant): John William 'Bill' McAfee, Sr. was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1915. His family moved to Memphis when he was quite young and settled in the South Memphis area. McAfee dropped out of Southside High School and became a film projectionist, working with his father screening films at local movie houses. His early work with film would set him on a unique and lengthy career path as a newsreel cameraman and photojournalist. In 1944, McAfee was drafted into the U.S. Navy. His duties while he was stationed in the South Pacific included photographing Japanese military installations and the atomic bombing of Japan. After World War II, McAfee returned to Memphis, where he worked as a freelance newsreel photographer for major press and media networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC and UPI. He covered some of the most dramatic events of the post-war period, including the rise of Elvis Presley and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. McAfee's work during the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Movement included covering Freedom Marches and the enrollment at Ole Miss of James Meredith, the first African American to attend the University. McAfee's also served as chair of motion picture photography for the Memphis Cotton Carnival Association during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. McAfee's work with the motion picture industry included screening films for the Memphis Board of Censors headed by the infamous Lloyd T. Binford. McAfee noted that a 'Banned in Memphis' label ensured higher box office sales in other cities. He continued work as a film projectionist at the Main Street motion picture houses in Memphis, and he ran the projector when the last picture was screened at Lowe's State theater in 1969. Toward the end of his career, McAfee worked as a cameraman on major motion pictures including The People vs. Larry Flynt and The Firm, both filmed in Memphis. After retirement, McAfee was owner-operator of Mid-Town Photo Service and Mid-South Theatrical Motion and Photo Supply Company. The photographs and papers in The John William McAfee Collection were given to the Library by his daughter, Rose McAfee Phillips. The material in the collection documents McAfee's active career as a newsreel photographer, as well as his work with motion pictures and other forms of photography. While this collection does not include film footage, copies of detailed notes and headlines McAfee provided for each frame shot document the significant events he covered. McAfee's work required a great deal of travel, and among the material in this collection are expense reports and weekly logs of his locations and subjects filmed. Some of the material reflects McAfee's work as cameraman or projectionist on motion pictures such as Intruder in the Dust, filmed in Oxford (1949) and based on William Faulkner's novel of the same name and A Family Thing (1995), The People vs. Larry Flint (1995) and The Firm (1992) which were filmed in Memphis.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 1940s to 1990s

Digital Status: No

Extent: 1.75 linear feet

Language: English

Interviewees: John William McAfee

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


Civil rights demonstrations--Southern States
Civil rights movements--Press coverage
Civil rights movements--Southern States
Meredith, James, 1933-
Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tenn., 1968
School integration--Mississippi
Till, Emmett, 1941-1955
World War, 1939-1945




  Back to Top


 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

  The Library of Congress >> Research Centers
   September 26, 2018
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:
Ask a Librarian