Posted on January 21, 2019 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

For years, photographer Ernest Withers has been celebrated as a pivotal photographer of the civil-rights movement.

He snapped the iconic picture of African-American sanitation workers holding up signs that say “I am a man” during protests in Memphis, Tennessee, among many others.

Preston Lauterbach has just published a new book on Withers, titled Bluff City, that explores a lesser-known side of him: that he was also an FBI informant.

Lauterbach explains how, in that era, one could both join the civil-rights struggle and report to the FBI, in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon.

And it’s also fitting that we share this segment on Martin Luther King Day, because Withers felt responsible for a later outbreak of violence during the Memphis protests — which, in turn, led King to the city where he would later be assassinated.

Listen to Lauterbach on Weekend Edition below or read a transcript of his interview on NPR’s website.

Categories: Author Interview

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