In 1975, photographer David “Oggi” Ogburn began serving as assistant to the historian Chancellor James Williams (1898-1992), where he documented his work through photography and audiotape until 1987. Williams is noted for his work on African civilizations prior to encounters with Europeans; his major work is “The Destruction of Black Civilization” (1971/1974).
As recalled by Ogburn in a recent POH Talk Radio interview, their relationship started when Oggi was visiting the apartment of a person he recalls being from California. While she was cooking a hearty vegetarian meal, the then Howard University student looked on her book shelf and saw “The Destruction of Black Civilization.”
Later, Ogburn says he would read the book and visited Egypt. Before reading the book, “I thought our history started from slavery,” he says. He later heard a friend who was interviewing Williams on WHUR (Howard University Radio). After asking the friend about Williams, Ogburn learned that the author lived in the Woodner Apartments, not too far from his own.
“So, I wrote a letter to him,” says Ogburn, who was accustomed to traveling and taking pictures for record labels. Eventually, Williams’ assistant called Ogburn for a meeting with Williams and the working relationship began. There first trip together was to the University of Amherst, where Williams, who was then practically sight-challenged, delivered one of his many lectures.
Looking back, Ogburn says the experience built up his confidence. “I felt like I could do anything. I got to know who I was. As a man, I became a real man.” In honor of Williams, Ogburn has made these talks with Williams available on YouTube.