Castro in the Early Days of the Revolution

Rubenstein Library photo collection captures the controversial leader during the early days of his rule in Cuba

Fidel Castro in the Habana Libre Hotel, answering questions and writing to the ambassador to France, part of the Deena Stryker Collection in the Rubenstein Library

Fidel Castro in the Habana Libre Hotel, answering questions and writing to the ambassador to France, part of the Deena Stryker Collection in the Rubenstein Library

Following the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro on Friday, the divisive legacy of the controversial revolutionary was again aired out. More than a week of mourning was declared inside of Cuba, while outside many world leaders and Cuban exiles renewed their criticisms of his economic and human rights record.

Both reactions were a reminder of the intense feelings Castro provoked. A collection of photos in Duke’s Rubenstein Library taken from the early days of the Cuban Revolution captures moments of both public events and the personal lives of the revolution’s leaders and provides a glimpse of the aura that was beginning to grow around Castro.

Castro with Cuban rebel leader Armando Acosta in a Havana street.

The Deena Stryker Photographs collection contains around 1,850 photographs and related materials generated by the journalist during her two trips to Cuba between July 1963 and July 1964. It was during her second trip to the island from December 1963 to July 1964 that she interviewed and photographed Fidel and Raúl Castro as well as other major figures in the Cuban Revolution.

Stryker is author of the recently published “Cuba: A Dairy of the Revolution: Conversations with Fidel, Raul, Che, and Celia Sanchez.

Cubans at a military parade. Note the large portrait of Castro on the building in the background.

In addition to images of key members of the Castro government at work and relaxing, the collection documents everyday life in Havana and in rural Cuba, focusing on farms, development projects, and schools.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in his office

Fidel Castro waiting for return of fishermen from U.S. captivity in 1964

Castro testifying at the trial of Marcos Rodríguez, a Cuban communist who was convicted of treason and executed in 1964.

Stryker's original negatives were processed in Cuba by Alberto Korda, Fidel Castro's personal photographer. All of Stryker's negatives have been digitized and are available online.

Duke acquired the photos from Stryker in 2009.  In an interview announcing the collection, Holly Ackerman, Duke librarian for Latin America and Iberia and a Cuba specialist, said the photos would be of interest to scholars and non-scholars wanting to know more about the early years of the Castro regime. "These are not the official photographs," Ackerman said. "You see a young Fidel doing exercises on his porch."

The photos also include portraits of other Cuban leaders including Fidel's brother Raúl, Juan Almeida Bosque, Armando Hart Dávalos, Celia Sánchez Manduley, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez and others.