For Black History Month, we are profiling prominent African Americans who made a significant and historic impact on Kansas City Public Schools. We want to give credit and our gratitude to the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City and LINC for providing the images and information for this series.

Kansas City, February 26, 2020: For three decades, William Fambrough (1916-1983) documented African American life in Kansas City through his photographs. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, he moved with his family to Kansas City when he was a young boy. Fambrough showed an interest in photography at an early age and convinced his parents to buy him a Kodak Brownie camera.

After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1935, he studied graphic arts at Lincoln University and then served in World War II with the 829th Aviation Engineers of the U.S. Army Air Force. After three years in the military, Fambrough completed his degree and resumed his passion for photography.

This is a William Fambrough photo of a civil rights protest in Kansas City. (State Historical Society of Missouri)

He worked for The Kansas City Call and as a freelance photographer, capturing images of the African American experience in Kansas City from the 1950s to the ’70s. Many of his photographs also appeared – uncredited – in The Kansas City Star. Renowned for capturing his subject matter with a single snapshot, Fambrough earned the nickname “One Shot Fambrough.” Examples of his work are preserved in the collections of the Black Archives of Mid-America, the State Historical Society of Missouri, and the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame.

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