Collection of Counts’ images from 1957 desegregation in IU Archives

Wary yet determined, Carlotta Walls clutches her books to her chest and prepares for school, the specter of a uniformed soldier visible nearby.

The striking photograph used on the cover of Carlotta Walls LaNier’s book is one of many iconic images shot by late IU journalism professor Will Counts when Little Rock Central High School was desegregated in 1957. This week, the two will be connected yet again — LaNier will be in Bloomington to speak at the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, while Counts’ entire photograph collection is housed in the IU Archives, part of the IU Library system.

carlotta_coverLaNier is one of the “Little Rock Nine,” as the first African-American students to attend the Little Rock, Ark., high school became known. Initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Arkansas’ governor, the students attended following the intervention of President Eisenhower, an event widely considered one of the most important in the nation’s civil rights movement. Her LaNier’s book, “A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School,” was published in 2010.

A photographer nearly all his life, Counts was a journalism professor at IU for 32 years. He worked for the Arkansas-Democrat in Little Rock, Ark., and The Associated Press in Chicago, but he is perhaps best known for the photographs he shot of desegregation at Little Rock.

Bradley Cook, curator of photographs in the Office of University Archives and Records Management, recounted meeting Counts in 1999 when the photographer was working on a book, and telling him the university would be interested in his entire photography collection.

After Counts’ death in 2001, Cook spoke with his Counts’ wife, Vivian, and learned the photographer had talked with her about the IU Archives and how impressed he was with the care taken in storing photographs there. Following further discussions, family members agreed the entire collection should come to the IU Archives, he said.

“Without a doubt, having the Will Counts collection in our repository casts light on our photograph collections in general, and the entire repository as a whole,” Cook said. “Very much like our Charles Cushman photographs and our IU sports photographs, the Counts photograph collection is one of our most-used photograph collections. Having such collections draws researchers and users into the repository, and then many of them also become interested in who we are, what we do and the other collections we have.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,