J, his name is Cecil J. Williams, and Cecil J. Williams is a Civil Rights pioneer.
However, for the purpose of this write up, I’m going to, at times, refer to him as Cecil “Fuck Yo Fountain” Williams; “Fuck Yo Fountain” Williams; “Fuck Yo Fountain”; or Cecil. I like the name Cecil. If your name is Cecil, that let’s me know you with the shits. That let’s me know you are about that life. That let’s me know you have a proclivity for drinking ice cold, delicious water, generously seasoned with racist white tears from a Whites Only fountain.
But “F*ck Yo Fountain” Williams was so much more than a water fountain snapshot.
Cecil was a chronicler and truth-teller who spent his career behind the camera so that essential and paramount stories of the civil rights movement would be told through a truthful lens, a lens that refused to be edited by whitewashing and pro-white american textbooks that often display a cupcake version of a movement that fought for black equality; that fought for black equity.
Cecil Williams, who was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, photographed his first wedding at 11 years old. From then, he began a career in photography, which started as a simple way to make money, and would quickly morph into a tool to document American history. By the time he was 14, Cecil was freelancing for JET magazine. When the magazine became aware of the Civil Rights movement growing in Orangeburg, they needed an onsite correspondent for constant updates. “Fuck Yo Fountain” Williams went on to photograph significant desegregation efforts in South Carolina . Some of his most notable pictures are from the Briggs v. Elliott case in Summerton, South Carolina. It was the first of five desegregation cases that eventually pushed to integrate public schools in the United States, as all five cases would later on be combined into Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case that declared “separate but equal” public schools for whites and blacks was unconstitutional.
In January of 1960, during Williams’ senior year in college, he had an opportunity to capture images of then presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, at a press conference in New York City. The press conference was being held at a downtown hotel and “F*ck Yo Fountain” Williams audaciously decided to go down to the hotel in hopes of capturing some images. However, after arriving at the hotel, he would find out that he forgot his press pass, and the hotel security was moments away from kicking him out of the room, just as as Kennedy was about to come up to the podium. But then Kennedy told them not to kick him out, and gave Williams his personal address. For the next year, while campaigning all over the United States, Cecil became a close acquaintance to Kennedy and would go on to become his favorite lensman. Williams once wrote, ” The historical significance of John F. Kennedy’s announcement that he was running for president, combined with a personal incident that happened at the press conference, made that day in January my most treasured memory.”
Beginning in the 1960’s, he worked as the official photographer for the South Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, South Carolina State University, Claflin University (his alma mater) and National Conference of Black Mayors, Inc. for more than 20 years. At 38 years old, 40 years before solar energy was popularized, “Fuck Yo Fountain” Williams designed a solar-operated home, which was featured in EBONY. One year later, he designed an energy-light impulsive roof-top considered for patent by Sears executives in Chicago.
Cecil “F*ck Yo Fountain” Williams is currently living in his home state of South Carolina, where in the summer of 2019, he opened the “Cecil Williams Civil Rights Museum” to house hundreds of images and artifacts from the civil rights movement.
Leslie McLemore writes about a lot of different shit for Black With No Chaser. He is also the Takeaway Kang and is the father of two beautiful girls, one of which gets on every nerve he has. The other one is sweet. So, you know, balance.
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