Civil Rights Movement photographer and FBI informant? ‘Unfinished’ examines Ernest Withers’ covert operations in the 20th century

True Crime July 30, 2022
Listen to ‘Unfinished’

During the Civil Rights Movement, photographer Ernest Withers was on the front lines, snapping historical moments. When Dr. King rode the integrated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Emmett Till’s uncle pointed his accusing finger, and Memphis garbage men went on strike wearing “I AM A MAN” placards, Ernest captured these moments. Ernest gained trust from leaders like James Lawson, Dr. King, and Whitney Young. Little did they know, Ernest was spying on the movement.

In Witness Docs’ investigative anthology series, “Unfinished,” host and journalist Wesley Lowery (CBS News, Washington Post) explores Ernest’s double life. Each podcast season uncovers America’s unfinished business, focusing on 1 storyline.

In season 3, Wesley will investigate Ernest’s dual operations and explore a part of America’s secret histories. Tune in for Wesley’s insight, new perspectives on the government’s involvement, and if Ernest was coerced into working with the FBI.

Ernest’s loyalties were divided. The podcast discusses the FBI’s “license to lie” and a landmark lawsuit’s decision causing them to fork over hidden records from Ernest’s FBI informant days. In episode 3, we hear about 2 daughters who bring listeners closer to finding out why Ernest agreed to work with the FBI. We learn about Ernest’s handler, FBI Special Agent Bill Lawrence.

In Fayette County, Tennessee, Black sharecroppers were forced from their land when attempting to vote in 1961. This is an example of Ernest’s relationship with the FBI, when he and Bill showed up and saw something more malicious. Northern “agitators” flooded West Tennessee and Ernest fulfilled the FBI’s need for pictures from these kinds of events.

Start “Unfinished” from the first episode of each season. All seasons are highly bingeable with episodes running less than an hour each. Season 1 traveled to the Arkansas Delta to investigate Isadore Banks’ lynching. Season 2 trekked to Short Creek, a community on the Utah/Arizona border.

Tune in for new, weekly episodes of “Unfinished” wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to ‘Unfinished’

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