Flashback | Kent State University

Flashback

Coming of Age

Lafayette Tolliver ’71 still has the 35mm SLR Canon camera he used to take photos for the Daily Kent Stater and the Chestnut Burr in the late 60s and early 70s. Seldom without his camera, the photojournalism major documented black student life at Kent State just a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “There weren’t a lot of us here, maybe 300 or less,” says Tolliver, now a civil rights lawyer in Toledo, Ohio. “I wanted to establish a visual footprint to show that we were here and that we made a difference.” 

His photographs—more than 1,000 negatives and nearly 100 prints—capture a cross-section of events, individuals and pivotal moments at the height of the Black Campus Movement at Kent State. The Department of Special Collections and Archives acquired Tollivers photos in January 2014 and mounted an exhibit of selected images, Coming of Age at Kent, 1967–1971: A pictorial of black student life, in Ritchie Hall last October. 

“It’s part of our department’s outreach efforts to expand records pertaining to historically underrepresented communities at Kent State,” says university archivist Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, M.L.I.S. ’10, who initially contacted Tolliver. “The Tolliver collection is an important asset for researchers interested in visual representations of black student life at Kent State University.”

If you have correspondence, diaries, photographs, newsletters, publications or a story to tell of this time period, contact Lae’l Hughes-Watkins at lhughesw@kent.edu.