Trailblazing black photojournalist Guy Crowder died this past Sunday of pneumonia, days after suffering a stroke. He was 72. Crowder got his start photographing South Central Los Angeles in the early 1960’s. Despite his talent, and despite having access to a world no one else was covering, mainstream publications like the Los Angeles Times, the Herald Examiner, the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, AP and UPI refused to hire him because of his race. And yet he persevered, eventually having a career that spanned decades and that allowed him to capture some of the most important moments in LA history.
The Los Angeles Wave has more:
Crowder began taking pictures during the 1960s and despite being shunned by the racist mainstream periodicals of the time, he took pictures for the Los Angeles Sentinel, the various Wave newspapers, and Johnson Publications’ Jet and Ebony magazines and became a giant in his field.
He had a knack of being in the middle of wherever the biggest news was occurring. He was a stealthy stalker of the action during the Watts riots; he was standing beside Sen. Robert Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel moments before he was assassinated; he covered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral; he was ringside shooting the evolution of Muhammad Ali, was on the sidelines at the Coliseum and photographed the daughter of the late Johnny Guitar Watson when she made her debut as, reportedly, the first Black cheerleader for USC and was there again to shoot the first Black cheerleader to shake her pom poms for the then Los Angeles Rams.
Crowder functioned as a busy, one-man news service for the Black press, which came to depend on him. And he always delivered, big time. When it came to photojournalism, Crowder knew exactly what the Black media needed to cover and he shot it: The political rise of Tom Bradley, author Alex Haley signing his book “Roots” at the May Co. on Crenshaw Boulevard, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall judging a Moot Court competition at USC, Coretta Scott King visiting 92nd Street School, Wynton Marsalis talking to children at a Baldwin Hills school, and so on and so forth.