William Fambrough, Sr.

Black Family TWA | State Historical Society of Missouri
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William L. Fambrough Sr. spent three decades documenting African American life in Kansas City as a photojournalist. Born in Little Rock, Ark., as a boy he convinced his parents to buy him a Kodak Brownie camera to support his budding interest in photography. He studied graphic arts while attending Lincoln University, however his studies were put on hold for a three-year stint in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.

Following his military service, he completed his degree and returned to his passion for photography. He worked for the Kansas City Call during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a freelance photographer throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area into the 1970s. Many of Fambrough’s photos appeared in the Kansas City Star, although he went uncredited.

While the subjects of his photography varied greatly and included five U.S. Presidents, his work is also known for providing a historical record of key moments during the Civil Rights era in Kansas City. Additionally, his freelance work documented many aspects of everyday African American culture, briding the realms of entertainment, politics, health and civil service.

Fambrough’s work has been displayed at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and many pieces are preserved in the collections of the Black Archives of Mid-America and the State Historical Society of Missouri. He was renowned for capturing his subject matter with a single shot, earning the nickname, “One Shot Fambrough.”