Marion James Porter
New Orleans Public Library
Date range:ca. 1960-1964
Size of collection:13 prints (8" x 10")
Source: Deposit by Charlene Legaux Porter, 1984
Terms of Access: Available to registered researchers by appointment
Copyright Information: All rights belong to the Porter family. Consult with an archivist for more information.
Biographical NoteA native of Donaldsonville, La., Porter grew up in New Orleans and attended Straight College. He did photographic work for the Louisiana Weekly and for Black Data Weekly and also served as the local photographer for such national publications as Ebony, Jet, and Black Enterprise. He also owned Porter's Photo News. Among his subjects over the years were celebrities such as President John F. Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Halie Selassie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Jesse Owens. His work documents the full range of African American activity in the Crescent City, from social occasions and sporting events to political rallies and civil rights protests.
Porter was a member of a number of local organizations, including the NAACP, the Urban League, and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. He was a veteran of World War II, having seen action at the Battle of the Bulge under the command of General George Patton. Marion Porter died of cancer in New Orleans on November 10, 1983 at the age of 74.
In 1995 Porter's widow, Charlene Richard, entrusted local photographer Eric Waters with the surviving inventory of his negatives and photos. Waters, through Ebon Images, Inc., had plans to publish a book of Porter's work, to create a traveling exhibit of his photographs, and to establish the Marion Porter Photography Workshop to support and encourage the development of young black photographers. Eric Waters and Ebon Images, Inc., however, are no longer involved with the Porter photographs.
Waters, in a grant proposal to the city of New Orleans, described the Porter photographs as
... an essential testimony to the history of Black people and Black life in New Orleans for the period 1930-1980. Porter was blessed with an eye that captured not only the images of a photograph but also the spirit and message of the moment. He was a people person, possessed of a wealth of knowledge and contacts who had a generous commitment to Black people. He was an authentic man with no pretense and a man of strong commitment. He touched many people and captured telling moments in their lives on film. The value of his body of work in documenting a half century of Black life in New Orleans is beyond estimate.
Scope and ContentsIn 1984, the year after Porter's death, his widow deposited thirteen of her husband's prints in the Louisiana Division with the understanding that they would be used only for research and display. The prints came to the Division without captions or other identifying information, but they all depict aspects of the civil rights movement in the Crescent City. In the Detailed Description of the Records that follows, we have created captions to identify individuals and locations shown in the photographs. To a considerable degree, however, the images speak for themselves and can be appreciated without any contextual identification.
Several of the photographs were used by Division staff in the 1995 exhibit, "A New Day is Breaking Upon Us: The Drive for Civil Rights in New Orleans." In 1998 Eric Waters agreed to allow the Library to present digital versions of the photographs on its NUTRIAS website. The digital images of the Porter photographs are available below.
Picketing on Dryades St.
Woolworth lunch counter.
Reverend Alexander pickets.
Picketer in the rain.
The picketing continues.
March on City Hall.
March on City Hall.
Registering to vote.
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Coded: 1/13/1999 (rev., 7/20/2005)
Coded by: Wayne Everard