In 1969 a newly pledged member of Alpha Phi Alpha decided to attend the memorial service for his fraternity brother Martin Luther King Jr.
Horace Henry said he grabbed his camera before heading to the service as an “afterthought.” He’d been gifted the camera by his brother and had little experience. Still, perhaps assuming Henry was a professional photographer, an usher at Ebenezer Baptist Church led him to the front row of the memorial service.
“I didn’t know what to do, but I just raised my arm and started taking pictures,” he said.
Amongst professional photographers, the inexperienced Clark Atlanta University student captured photos of Coretta Scott King, the King children, Harry Belafonte, Rosa Parks and more.
43 of the 48 photos Henry took at the church and at Southview Cemetery, where Dr. King was originally buried, were usable. They’re now on display at the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library in Conyers through Feb. 28.
The exhibit has been on display at other locations throughout the years, but it may soon receive its biggest audience thus far.
Henry donated the original prints to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D. C.
The museum’s chief curator Jacquelyn Serwer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the photos will not be on display when the museum opens on Sept. 24, however.
“The photographs will not be on view when we open, but we look forward to featuring them in future exhibitions and publications,” she said via email.
Prior to donating the photos, Henry said he’d reached out to the Smithsonian to tell them about his book “One Day in January.” The picture book features the 43 photos and captions.
Serwer eventually flew to Atlanta and viewed the photos, which were on display in Henry’s home.
“Here’s a country, Palmetto, Georgia man living in Atlanta and [a] Smithsonian [curator] is in my home,” Henry said.
He said the experience and subsequent interest in his exhibit “One Day in January” taught him a lot about life and photography. Most of all, he said, it showed him the power of “divine intervention.”
“I just feel blessed and fortunate to have been there and accomplished what I did,” he said.
“One Day in January” exhibit at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, 864 Green St., Conyers, GA. Through Feb. 28. Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. (Mondays – Thursdays), 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Fridays – Saturdays). conyers-rockdalelibrary.org
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