"DOCUMENTS OF DEMOCRACY IN ACTION": FIRST EDITION OF DANVILLE, VIRGINIA, 1963, FEATURING THE FIRST COLLECTED PHOTOGRAPHS IN PRINT OF AWARD-WINNING PHOTOGRAPHER DANNY LYON
(LYON, Danny) (MILLER, Dorothy). Danville, Virginia. (Atlanta, Georgia: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, August, 1963). Slim octavo, original photographic self-wrappers, staple-bound as issued; pp. (16).
First edition of a rare work on the brutal 1963 "Bloody Monday" in Danville, Virginia that left bodies "on the street, drenched and bloody," with cover photographic image and 20 within by Danny Lyon, including his photographs of fire hoses targeting marchers and SNCC workers teaching protesters how to use nonviolence as they protect themselves from "a policeman's club."
In May 1963 Birmingham's Bull Connor stunned a nation when cameras recorded police aiming high-jet fire hoses at peaceful Black protesters, hurling them to the street as police dogs tore into them. The next month, on "Bloody Monday" in Danville, Virginia, protesters faced similar violence as a single camera caught police, firemen and deputized garbage workers turning high-velocity hoses on marchers. The camera belonged to Danny Lyon, then in Danville as the first staff photographer of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). His images, along with text by SNCC worker Dorothy Miller, portray "nightstick-wielding police" who left bodies "on the street, drenched and bloody." Days later the police broke down a door to a Black church where women had brought food for those praying and listening to a talk by SNCC executive secretary James Forman. Fire hoses waited outside as Forman confronted the police chief, and any protesters who escaped were chased through the dark streets. A Danville Grand Jury summarily "handed down indictments against 14 persons," including SNCC workers. They were charged "under what was still termed 'the John Brown statute,' for 'inciting the colored population to acts of violence and war against the white population'" (Montieth, SNCC's Stories, 122). Danville's violent "Bloody Monday" came 80 years after the notorious 1883 Danville massacre, in which Black men were killed as whites "took over, politically and physically" (Dailey, Manners and Massacres, 556-57).
This rare work features a cover and 20 images by Danny Lyon, who was in college when he "set out to document SNCC." The organization stood out for its young, "mostly Black, mostly southern students willing to challenge white southern repression… in its most dangerous locations." SNCC was especially distinctive in early recognizing the importance of using photographs "to tell its story of struggle and resistance, of police brutality and violent confrontation… For a grassroots organization like SNCC… still cameras enabled activists themselves to frame the movement as they experienced it." From 1962 to 1964 Lyon photographed for SNCC. To Julian Bond, SNCC's first communications secretary, "Lyon's photographs 'showed what we did and how we did it and who we were and who we worked with and where the work was done. And they showed who wanted the work stopped, and how angry they could become, and the damage they could do… [his pictures] helped to make the movement move.'" Lyon's images herein, the earliest known substantial printing of his photographs in print, are "documents of democracy in action" (Raiford, Come Let Us Build a New World Together, 1131-54). First edition, first printing: rear wrapper with printed "August, 1963"; "Photography and layout Danny Lyon."
In fine condition.