Matt Herron

Movement Photographs by Matt Herron

Remembering Matt Herron, SNCC Legacy Project (SLP)

Matt Herron — R.I.P. Ron Carver


Sharlene Kranz:
Sunday, August 9, 2020.
Matthew J. Herron died Friday when his glider plane crashed near San Rafael, California. He was 89 years old.


From Matt Herron's Website

Born in Rochester, NY, Matt studied photography in Rochester as a private student of Minor White, and then worked as a writer and photographer for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. A conscientious objector during the Korean War, Herron was organizing peace demonstrations and beginning to shoot assignments for Life and Look at the time the first sit-ins were occurring in Tennessee and North Carolina. He was arrested for attempting to integrate an amusement park in Maryland in the summer of 1963 and shortly afterward he and his wife, Jeannine, moved to Jackson, Mississippi with their two small children.

For the next two years Herron pursued three styles of photography: classical photojournalism for the major picture and newsmagazines, documentary photography as practiced by his mentor, Dorothea Lange, and photography as propaganda in the service of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organizations. Often he was able to use news assignments as cover for a more documentary style of work. Many of the iconic photos used to document SNCC's story were taken by Matt.

In the summer of 1964, Herron organized a team of five photographers, The Southern Documentary Project, in an attempt to record the rapid social change taking place in Mississippi and other parts of the South as civil rights organizations brought northern college students to work in voter registration and education. George Ballis and Danny Lyon were among the Southern Documentary photographers and Dorothea Lange served as informal adviser to the project.

In 2012 he curated a 158-print photography exhibition, This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, featuring nine photographers who joined the civil rights movement and shot it from the inside. This Light opened in Salt Lake City and is now touring the US. The University Press of Mississippi has published a companion volume to the show. In 2014 Herron published Mississippi Eyes, the story of the Southern Documentary Project. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has recently agreed to host a US tour of his 50 print exhibition on the Selma March and Voting Rights.

Herron's photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Memphis National Civil Rights Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the High Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the George Eastman House. He is the subject of several profiles, including Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, and a cover story in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, June 2014.


As remembered by Daphne Muse
August 10, 2020

Homage to Matt Herron

As a daily reminder of how I must remaining unwavering to the principles of SNCC and freedom, a Matt Herron photo of Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer hangs outside my office. She watches over and guides me through the quagmire of this platinum hell surrounding and trying to consume our lives. In the early 2000s, my late husband David Landes gifted me with three of Heron's compelling photographs including one of Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ms. Hamer and another of Ivanhoe Donaldson, Charlie Cobb, and Stokely Carmichael.

The last time I saw Herron was at the Danny Lyon exhibit at the DeYoung Museum in 2012. I also was pleased he and his wife were able to join the presentation the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement made at Google in 2014. Like Ms. Hamer and so many others in SNCC, he remained steadfast in his vision and capturing the dignity of those who put their lives on the line for justice, freedom, and a working Democracy that really served the people. His photographs are as poignant today as they were in the 60s. I stand with my fellow travelers, Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, his family, and community of friends in honoring a truly consequential life.

Go well,

Daphne Muse
The Seasoned Elder
Writer, Poet, and Cultural Broker


As remembered by Jim Loewen
August 12, 2020

Matt Herron took two of the more dramatic photos in our revisionist state history, Mississippi: Conflict and Change. I think he let us use them at a reduced rate, as well. They are of African Americans trying to register to vote in the obviously hostile environment of Jackson, and a white policeman grabbing an American flag from a young demonstrator at the governor's mansion.

What an ideal way to depart!


As remembered by Deborah Menkart (Teaching For Change)
August 12, 2020

Jim, this is the photo of the officer trying to take the U.S. flag from Anthony Quinn, and what Matt wrote about it.

[See Mississippi: Into the Storm for an additional photo by Matt of the same incident.]

And while it may have been an ideal way to depart, I just wish it had been in another decade or so.

Lovely tribute from the SNCC Legacy Project (above).


As remembered by Judy Richardson
August 12, 2020

Jim — It was great hearing your story about working with Matt. We had the same good experience when I was selecting photos for our SNCC women's anthology, Hands on the Freedom Plow. He was extremely generous when working with Movement-related folks like us.

The commentary mentions that Anthony's mother was Mrs Aylene Quin. She was fierce!! She was one of the first to welcome Bob Moses and SNCC into McComb, feeding Movement folks at her cafe. White supremacists bombed her home. Her daughter, Jacqueline, was one of the leaders of the McComb school walk-out, an event I know you both know well ... particularly you, Deborah, given the work Teaching for Change has done with teachers in McComb.


As remembered by Ed King
August 22, 2020

Today we remember Matt Herron and send love and sympathy to Jeannine and the family.

Jim Lowen mentioned two famous photographs by Matt. The photo of white policeman seizing American flag from child is from summer of 1965 in Jackson at MS Governor's mansion. This was an MFDP demonstration to protest police brutality to over 500 marchers, mostly Delta women over 50, in Jackson fairgrounds stockade prison. Larry Guyot and Mrs. Annie Devine were in charge. This was also in support of voting rights and MFDP Congressional Challenge; Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and Ms Victoria Jackson Gray were in Washington at this time. Governor boasted there was no police brutality and no voter discrimination. I suggested his front porch for the demonstration as place for flags and posters. The Quinn family was recruited. The other adult woman in pictures is Dr. June Finer, from the Medical Committee on Human Rights. She has first aid medications in her bag, in case needed on the spot. Ms A. Quin in Sept., 1964 had to explain to her children why their home in McComb was bombed. MFDP was not using children or anyone in this situation. I alerted Matt to take photographs. MFDP needed national attention; these pictures got world attention.

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