As of January 2018, Saint Xavier University has become one of only five universities to have the rights to show the Flip Schulke Martin Luther King, Jr. photo collection.
Vice President of Student Affairs Tony Campbell explains that Schulke is one of the most important photojournalists of the 20th century.
Schulke was best known for his work with the Civil Rights Movement and as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most trusted photographer. Schulke’s collection of Dr. King includes over 11,000 photos.
However, Schulke was also a photographer for Life Magazine, National Geographic, and Jacques Cousteau. Schulke was a pioneer of underwater photography and did the first full photoshoot of Machu Picchu.
In an interview for The Xavierite, Campbell explained the process he went through to obtain the rights to the historic collection.
“I had a personal friendship with Flip while he was alive,” Campbell said, “and remained in touch with his wife Donna after his death.
“Flip wanted his photographs to be used for educational purposes. While Flip was alive, we devised a way for Flip to achieve this goal. While he was getting an honorary degree at Rider University he offered the [Rider] University this digitized collection. This year, I asked his wife Donna if she would do the same for Saint Xavier University and she agreed.”
For Campbell, the collection of Dr. King seemed to be a perfect fit for the university.
“Our values of Respect, Excellence, Diversity, Compassion, Hospitality, and Lifelong Learning fit this collection perfectly,” Campbell explained.
“In addition, the photos in this collection provide our students with an opportunity to see history and not just read about history.
“Before 24-hour cable networks, reading magazines like Life, National Geographic, and Ebony were a way people learned about the world outside of their local communities.
“These magazines could be found in most American homes. In fact, Dr. King told Flip directly that his job was to photograph the [Civil Rights] Movement as it was the photography that helped people to finally understand the level of injustice.”
The collection SXU now has the rights to show contains a multitude of photos, and while a majority of them are of the of Rev. Dr. King, the collection also holds photos of other historical figures and events.
“This is a varied collection,” Campbell said, “There are pictures of JFK in this collection as well as pictures of Fidel Castro, the Berlin wall going up and coming down, The Bay of Pigs training site, and the space shots from Mercury through the space shuttle. It is a varied collection that covers a wide range of sports, theater, and political figures.”
Campbell continued to say that he hopes the collection can provide a new way of learning for SXU students.
“SXU has a mission to teach,” Campbell said, “These photos can provide historical context to the things discussed in class.
“In addition, the Flip Schulke Collection can be used in many outreach activities to educate our community on a variety of topics.”
So far, the community response to the collection has been very positive. Campbell told The Xavierite, “I only hope that the positive response will continue to grow as people see the photographs for themselves and develop ways to use the photos in class.”
During Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, SXU displayed the collection in the Butler Reception Hall for students, faculty, and staff to take a look. While the exhibit was only open for a few hours on Friday, January 19, Campbell says he is sure the school can – and will – find other ways to continue showcasing Schulke’s collection.
“These are digital photos that will be available for educational purposes in the library,” Campbell said, “We will work with anyone at SXU who wishes to use the photographs for legitimate educational purposes.”