During my junior and senior years at Oberlin College I began photographing for the school newspaper, the Oberlin Review. A small liberal-arts college in Ohio, Oberlin has a long tradition of engagement in progressive causes and social justice; it was coeducational from its founding in 1833 and admitted blacks as students beginning in 1835. It was an important "station" on the underground railroad and a center of abolitionist activity in the years before the Civil War. A tradition of student activism has been part of the college ever since. Some of these photos show a rally for civil rights orgainized by students and townspeople.
In May 1963 a group of students decided to support striking coal miners in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Kentucky by sending a donation of food. These were non-union miners at mines that were too small and uneconomical to have been recognized by the United Mine Workers. The owners of these small mines were as desperate as the miners and there was violence on both sides of the picket lines. The students persuaded Cleveland teamsters to join the relief effort and a large truck was packed with food and driven to Hazard, where it was unloaded at night to avoid provoking the mine-owners' armed vigilantes.
Oberlin is also known for its Conservatory of Music and music is an important part of campus life. Professor Robert P. Fountain (1917-1996) joined the Oberlin faculty in 1948. He was a world-renowned choral conductor, and beloved by Oberlin students who sang under his energetic and passionate direction. Among his many achievements was the founding of the Oberlin Musical Union, a 230-voice choir that brought students and townspeople together to perform a major choral work each year. Some of the photos shown here were taken during rehearsals of Handel's "Messiah."