Born in East Harlem in 1936 to Puerto Rican and Italian parents, Benedict Fernandez became one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States, in large measure through his documenting some of the most powerful images of the human rights struggle of 1960s and 70s United States, and especially from visually documenting the final year of the life of Martin Luther King.
Fernandez has earned numerous prestigious awards for his work, including a Fellowship of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in China, a US National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Various museums around the world house his work in their permanent collections, including the Smithsonian, the US National Portrait Gallery, the Schomburg Center, the University of Tokyo, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Fernandez has published several books of photographs, including IN OPPOSITION: Images of American Dissent in the Sixties, and I AM A MAN.
During African History Month in 2001, Fernandez came to give a lecture during an exhibition of his work at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. He spoke with me afterward to discuss:
Along the way, Fernandez cited two former King associates: Andrew Young, later mayor of Atlanta and American ambassador to the United Nations, and Julian Bond, later a Georgia State Assemblyman and Chair of the NAACP.