Bennett J. ’79 and Meg Goodman gift a photography collection estimated to be worth $10 million that will enhance teaching, learning, and diversity initiatives
Editor’s note: photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic
By Jill Spotz
Lafayette College is pleased to announce a gift of more than 3,000 vintage documentary photographs from Bennett J. ’79 and Meg Goodman. The collection of powerful and thought-provoking images features important moments in civil rights history by some of the most notable names in photojournalism and is one of the largest private collections of civil rights photography.
The photographs will be incorporated into teaching and learning initiatives, and will add programming opportunities focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The collection will make a consequential impact on the educational curriculum at Lafayette. The photographs are estimated to be worth $10 million, underscoring their importance to society and history.
The Goodmans are gifting the collection in honor of the Kirby family and their legacy at Lafayette. A century ago, Fred Morgan Kirby established the Kirby Professorship of Civil Rights at the College, considered one of the first positions of its kind at the time. In 1930, Kirby subsequently financed construction of the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights. The legacy and impact of the Kirby family at Lafayette have been extensive. Their vision served as the inspiration for the Goodmans to ensure the College continues to be a leader in the world of higher education and the study of civil rights.
“We look forward to the many ways we will share the iconic images in this collection with our community,” says President Nicole Farmer Hurd. “This generous gift from the Goodmans will not only enhance our academic offerings but will allow us to continue to reflect and create spaces that will foster conversations about our journey to advance a more just and inclusive world. We are considering multiple opportunities to display these photographs in buildings on campus, including the President’s House, Kirby Hall of Civil Rights, and through exhibitions for the greater Lehigh Valley community.”
Bennett Goodman’s connection to Lafayette extends beyond the formal engineering education he received. Goodman has maintained a passion for the arts ever since he heard Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, speak at his 1979 Commencement ceremony about the impact of art on society and political discourse.
“These photographs remind us of the long and unfinished process of promoting equal justice for all Americans. I look forward to the many ways Lafayette will be able to utilize these images to support the study of civil rights and inclusion efforts at the College,” says Goodman. “It is my hope that during a time of great divide in our country, this collection will serve as a catalyst to foster more dialogue in our national pursuit to create a more perfect union.”
The extensive collection includes photographs from the 1950s through the 1980s representing watershed events in the American civil rights movement. It features more than 1,600 images from the Associated Press and leading newspapers of important moments in United States history, including the Summers of Rage in 1965–1968, the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971, and the Incident at Wounded Knee in 1973. The collection also includes portraits of civil rights leaders, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and other champions for social justice.
In addition, the collection contains 1,400 photographic images from photojournalism representing Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Many of these photographs were taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered one of the 20th century’s foremost documentary photographers, as well as George Rodger, a leading photographer of Africa.
This is the second contribution of photography from the Goodmans, who previously presented a collection of photographs representing 21st century photographers, valued at $5 million between 2016 and 2019. The existing Goodman photography collection has provided opportunities for interdisciplinary learning across campus. Faculty from various departments at the College have incorporated pieces from the collection into their curriculum. The opening of the Kirby Art Study Center in 2019 presented further opportunities to incorporate photographs from the Goodman collection into the curriculum and make them accessible to students, faculty, and the general public.
“Africana studies is very excited about this gift of photographic images from the Goodmans that document earlier stages of the civil rights movement,” says Wendy Wilson-Fall, associate professor and chair, Africana studies. “A collection of this quality and size will further illuminate the profile of Lafayette College for scholars nationwide. We look forward to working with the library and other campus partners to identify potential support to digitize this collection, and we are proud that Lafayette will be the repository of this valuable scholarly resource.”
Selections from the existing Goodman photography collection have been on display through multiple exhibitions in the Williams Center Gallery and Art Study Center since 2017. Future opportunities to share images from the new collection in spring 2022 include Focus IV, an exhibition planned in the gallery in Williams Center for the Arts, in connection with the centennial celebration of the Kirby Professorship of Civil Rights, and much more.