Clifton Meador
Center for Editions, Purchase College, Purchase, NY, 1996, English
Nonfiction, General; Nonfiction, Art and Cultural History
On 1 book list
Warren Lehrer

Clifton Meador is a writer, photographer, typographer, and printer—a book artist whose career and evolution has a long, slow (fascinating) march of its own. This 1996 reflection on the legacy of slavery and the struggle for civil rights in America begins with a Talmudic structure (which places a passage from the Bible between opposing commentaries). Here it is used to pair slave narratives with slave owners’ rationalizations for slavery. The next section takes up most of this slow, rhythmic book. It is paced, spread by spread, by full-bleed photographs that Meador took every mile along the route of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr. After a while, title pages from slave narratives superimpose the roadscapes, floating like ghostly witnesses across the monochromatic Alabama sky. As the book travels toward Montgomery, racist newspaper articles hover in the air, KKK pictograms are knocked out of documentary photographs of the ‘65 march, and the book’s color scheme evolves from black-and-white with a yellow cast, to a greenish duotone, to black and blood/rust red as the arc of time bends toward progress, but only through struggle and a confrontation of competing narratives. Meador grew up in the South, in the 1950s and ’60s, and his own memory and conscience shepherds us through this exquisite, haunting book. Melding the traditions of auteur and Renaissance person, Meador did the photography, designed the typefaces, wrote, compiled, offset-printed, and published this work.

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