Horace Henry Captures One Day in January
1/24/2014, 5:59 p.m.
January 15, 1969 only nine short months since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the city of Atlanta gathered with heavy hearts and somber souls to celebrate the birthday of a life that ended too soon. This was the first memorial service held for Dr. King, a service that has since been celebrated annually for the past 45 years. Georgia native, Horace Henry was amongst the few photographers in Ebenezer Baptist Church that dreary Wednesday morning and for the first time he has decided to display his private photos for those in the Atlanta community. His exhibit entitled, “One Day in January” can be seen at the Auburn Avenue Research Library for the month of January only. It is the largest private collection of images taken at the first memorial service for Dr. King.
Henry did not plan on being a celebrated photographer. The Clark Atlanta University (Clark College) graduate received the Yashica 35 millimeter camera from his brother who was overseas, “I was not interested photography but MLK was an Alpha and I was an Alpha so I decided to go,” Henry said. “I picked up the camera and took it with me as an afterthought.” Little did he know that afterthought would send him on a path to photojournalistic history.
There was a quiet haze over the church, Henry and his fraternity brothers stood in the back of the crowd, until a greater power gave him a bigger responsibility, “out of nowhere one of the ushers of the church came to me, approached me, took me by the arm, and carried me to the front of the church,” Henry said. From there he was able to move around with his camera and capture pictures no one else could. It was then Henry found himself shoulder to shoulder with photographers of the Associated Press and United Press International, but soon had the room to himself once those photographers rushed out to get their photos to press.
“I was very nervous, until I got settled down,” he expressed. “My only challenge was to hope and pray the pictures I was taking with the camera would come out.”
The photos came out phenomenal, Henry said. Harry Belafonte, “Mama King”, “Daddy King”, Andrew Young, and Mrs. Rosa Parks where just a few of the civil rights pioneers photographed by Henry.
As you walk through the exhibit you are able to see photos of choirs singing, the crowds inside and outside the church and the original burial site at Southview Cemetery. Henry is the only photographer who was able to photograph every aspect of this historic day. The original photos from this collection are now at the Smithsonian Institution Museum in Washington, D.C. and will become a part of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture Permanent Collection in 2015.
Typically a humble and private photographer, Henry has allowed himself to open up and show the world his truly amazing photos. One of his most prize possessions, a photo taken of C.T. Vivian giving council to Barack Obama before he was elected President of the United States can be found at Pascal’s, a restaurant in downtown Atlanta. The meeting was secret and Henry was the only photographer allowed inside.
Looking back on everything he has accomplished thus far in his photojournalistic career Henry says he is, “Happy to share it with the world and I am proud to be able to do that in my lifetime.” He hopes that his never before seen photos will impact the community positively and educationally for students and parents, “it’s a teaching tool, none other like those available. Young kids can see the exhibit and parents can explain to them about the different things they see,” Henry stated. He also encourages other photojournalists to never give up no matter how difficult the task may be and to chase their dreams fiercely.
Horace Henry will be speaking with the community about the photos at the Auburn Avenue Research Library January 30, 2014 at 7 p.m. There individuals will be able to purchase Henry’s book also entitled, One Day in January, a book that displays the historical photos in his exhibit as well. These photos, along with the legacy left behind by Dr. King will be forever remembered and never forgotten.