September 24, 2023

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.

“Coming back from a 1956 trip photographing South Carolina’s segregated beaches for Jet magazine, Cecil J. Williams stops at a filling station, closed at the time, and drinks from a “WHITE ONLY” water fountain. Image captured by Rendall Harper, a friend of the photographer.” –
—Photo by Rendall Harper

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.

“In one of Williams’s most reprinted images, a young boy clenches the hand of a figure, presumably his mother. This photo appeared on the cover of Freedom & Justice, edited by Jon Parrish Peede and published by Mercer University Press.” –
—Photo by Cecil J. Williams

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 the late 1950s and the 1960s, determined blacks of Orangeburg challenged Jim Crow laws by picketing, marching, demonstrating, boycotting, and protesting, which led to thousands of arrests. This photo shows three South Carolina State College students recently released from jail.” –
—Photo by Cecil J. Williams

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.”

U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy announcing that he is running for president at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York on Jan. 2, 1960.

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.

“Students from Benedict College protest outside of the Kress store in Columbia, South Carolina. African Americans could shop for goods at the store, but were prohibited from sitting down at its lunch counters. While picketing in March 1961, divinity student Leonard “Lennie” Glover (right) was stabbed by a white assailant and had to have his spleen removed. Once his health was restored, Glover returned to the site and continued his vigil.” –
—Photos by Cecil J. Williams

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.

“Harvey Gantt and the Sea of Reporters”: On January 28, 1963, Gantt became the first black student of Clemson College (now Clemson University) in South Carolina. The Charleston native later became the first black mayor of Charlotte, twice elected, in the 1980s.” –
—Photo by Cecil J. Williams

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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4 thoughts on “Cecil “F*ck Yo Fountain” Williams Is Black History

  1. It’s actually not you can say it’s moorish history because the etymology of black means pale which came from the French word BLANC.

  2. I am very familiar with the name, Leslie McLemore. You must be his son, I am a 1971 Jackson State graduate.

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