The photography of Opie Evans, local reporter, broadcaster, publisher, businessman and one of the earliest African-American photographers in Akron, will be on display at The University of Akron's Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron's Black History and Culture, starting Feb. 10 with an opening reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. His photography documents the local African-American community, in addition to other segments of the city's population from the mid-1940s through the early 1970s.
The exhibit, titled "This is Akron with Opie Evans: The Rubber City as Seen through the Lens of One of Its Earliest African-American Photographers," is part of UA's Rethinking Race series. It will feature 58 photographs selected from a larger body of Evans' work. The exhibit, which was guest curated by S. Victor Fleischer, university archivist, head of archival services and associate professor, is a collaboration between UA's McClain Gallery, Pan-African Center for Community Studies and Archival Services of University Libraries.
Evans captured the work and leisure of the local population -- especially African-Americans -- from every walk of life from the end of the Second World War through the civil rights era. This included African-American leaders and professionals, in addition to the indigent and working class. Among them are Elks, beauty salon operators, models, pastors, lawyers, brick layers, rubber workers, families, the elderly and children. Some of the most important and historically significant images document the local civil rights movement, while others feature legendary athletes, performers and political figures, both black and white. Prominent individuals of national acclaim photographed by Evans during visits to Akron include Count Basie, James Brown, Whitney Young, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey.
The exhibit will be presented in eight sections based on themes or subject matter Evans photographed during his career. These are the Photographer; Religion; Politics; the Civil Rights Movement; Labor and Industry; Organizations; Sports, Arts, and Entertainment; and Children.
"The photographs are incredibly significant as they were taken by one of the earliest African-American photographers in Akron and one of only a few operating in the city during the middle of the last century," says Fleischer. "The images are also significant because they visually document an important and transitional time in the city's and the nation's history and capture a segment of the local population that is seldom documented elsewhere."