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Photographer Roland Freeman to provide April 9 keynote address at ASU's Delta Symposium XVI

March 15, 2010 -- Noted photographer and writer Roland L. Freeman will speak on Friday, April 9, at 5:15 p.m. at ASU’s Delta Symposium XVI: Region and the Politics of Culture. Freeman will give a photo lecture on his documentation of the Civil Rights March inNoted photographer and writer Roland L. Freeman will present the April 9 keynote address of Delta Symposium XVI Friday, April 9, at 5:15 p.m. in the Mockingbird Room, ASU Student Union. Image (c) 2010 Roland L. Freeman. his presentation, “The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered.”  The lecture is free and open to the public. It will take place in the Mockingbird Room of ASU’s Reng Student Services Center/Student Union, 101 N. Caraway Road, Jonesboro.

Freeman’s presentation will showcase photographs he made during the historic Civil Rights march called The Mule Train. The Mule Train was a major march that contributed to the “Poor People’s Campaign” during the summer of 1968.  The march began in the Mississippi Delta in Marks, Miss., with a journey that started with mule-drawn wagons.  Freeman’s work is especially important because his photographs are the major visual record of this aspect of the Civil Rights Movement, and they tell the story of the march from the perspective of Freeman’s own participation in this event.

Freeman is
the founder and president of The Group for Cultural Documentation (TGCD), a publicly supported tax-exempt organization established in 1991 to contribute to the strength of this nation through the understanding, preserving, and bridging of cultural identities and traditions.  TGCD creates opportunities to support individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds and experiences in developing the understanding and communication skills necessary to function more effectively within the broader society.

Freeman is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance photographer, whose work has been published widely and exhibited throughout the woThis poster incorporates the book jacket design of Roland L. Freeman's "The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered." The inset image depicts the children of Bertha Johnson, with Brian, Terence, and Nelson (back row), and Trudy, Charles Jr. and Brenda Marie (front row) at the Mule Train preparation site, Marks, Miss., early May 1968. The background photo depicts the Mule Train entering Alabama, Reform, Ala., May 26, 1968. Images (c) 2010 Roland L. Freeman.rld, often along with quilts and other artifacts from his modest collection of work by African Americans. He was the first photographer to be awarded a Young Humanist Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities(1970), he has received two Masters of Photography Visual Arts Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982, 1991), he is the recipient of the Living Legend Award for Distinguished Achievement in Photography from the National Black Arts Festival (1994), and he holds an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Millsaps College (Jackson, Miss., 1997). Freeman was also awarded the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (2007), the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

Freeman, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, began his professional career in the 1960s, photographing the Civil Rights Movement. Freeman gained his initiation into documentary photography through his apprenticeship and friendship with the groundbreaking African-American photographer Gordon Parks. Freeman's assignments since then have emphasized photojournalism, commercial work, and photo-documentation. He has been a research associate for the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage since 1972, a faculty member at several universities, and during 1997, the Eudora Welty Visiting Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College.

A major emphasis of Freeman’s work is his ongoing self-assigned project, “While There Is Still Time,” a study of Black culture throughout the African Diaspora that uses the camera as a tool to research, document, and interpret the continuity of traditional African American folklife practices. This work is generally done in close collaboration with folklorists, historians, sociologists, and community activists, often in methodologically innovative ways that have been integral to his contributions to the work of photographers of his generation.

Books by Freeman include: “Something To Keep You Warm: The Roland Freeman Collection of Black American Quilts from the Mississippi Heartland” (Mississippi DepartmentThis iconic image, the Poor People's Campaign 1968 seal, was designed by Roland Freeman. Image (c) 2010 Roland L. Freeman. of Archives and History, 1979); “Southern Roads/City Pavements: Photographs of Black Americans” (International Center of Photography, New York, NY, 1981); “Stand By Me: African American Expressive Culture in Philadelphia” (Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Folklife Programs, 1989); “The Arabbers of Baltimore” (Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, MD, 1989); “Margaret Walker’s ‘For My People’: A Tribute, Photographs by Roland L. Freeman” (University Press of Mississippi, Jackson and London, 1992); “A Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories” (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, TN, 1996); and The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, TN, 1998). Each has been accompanied by a national/international touring exhibit. “Fire in My Bones: Transcendence and the Holy Spirit in African American Gospel” by Glenn Hinson, photographs by Roland L. Freeman (University of Pennsylvania, 2000), won the Chicago Folklore Prize, an international award recognizing the most significant book in the discipline for the year.  Freeman’s latest book is a collective biography entitled, “A Tribute to Worth Long, Still on the Case:  A Pioneer’s Continuing Commitment” (The Group for Cultural Documentation and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 2006).

Freeman’s presentation is integral to this year’s Delta Symposium, April 7-10. Other featured presenters include the scholar Dr. Trudier Harris, poet Ed Madden, and bluesman Bobby Rush. For more information, contact Dr. Gregory Hansen (, Department of English and Philosophy, Symposium Committee, at (870) 972-3043. 
Photos: All images on this page are courtesy of Roland L.  Freeman.
From top: Self-portrait, Roland L. Freeman, Mule Train book jacket cover, and
Poor People's seal, all
(c) 2010 Roland L. Freeman.

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