Indelible

Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle

History has sanded off the movement's rough edges. A new book rights the balance with images of African Americans fighting hard for freedom.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Photographs of the Civil Right movement have, for several reasons, been curated down to a handful of familiar images that tell a tidy story: Peaceful, passive African Americans were set upon, harassed, beaten, and jailed by vicious white bigots, an alarming number of them in police uniforms. But history is never that neat, never so simple, as Martin A. Berger reminds us so forcefully in Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle. The photographs shown here depict African Americans behaving more forcefully, fighting back, organizing, protesting, and doing what they can to wrench the freedom to which they were entitled from the white hands that withheld it. The people shown here are not saints. They are not even always heroes. But we will never know the fullness of their story unless we include these images into the accepted narrative.

Woman resisting arrest
Birmingham, Alabama, April 14, 1963

Unidentified photographer

All photographs from Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle by Martin A. Berger, 192 pp., University of California Press, $49.95.

AP


High School picketer
Houston, Texas, May 10, 1965

Unidentified photographer

AP


Dion Diamond, a student at Howard University is surrounded by white youths during a sit-in demonstration
Arlington, Virginia, June 9, 1960

Unidentified photographer

Bettmann/Corbis


Lunch counter protest
Raleigh, North Carolina, February 10, 1960

Unidentified photographer

(c) Matt Herron


Deputies approach child demonstrator in front of the Dallas County courthouse
Selma, Alabama, July 8, 1964

Photography by Matt Herron

(c) Matt Herron


Fire bomb watch
Mileston, Mississippi, June 1, 1964

Photography by Matt Herron

Don Cravens/Time Life Pictures/Getty


Woman boycotting Montgomery buses
Montgomery, Alabama, December 1, 1955

Photograph by Don Cravens

 

Bill Hudson/AP/Wide World Photos


Man with knife attempting to stab police dog
Birmingham, Alabama, May 3, 1963

Photograph by Bill Hudson

(c) Matt Herron


Black citizens filling out voter-registration forms at Forest City Courthouse
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, January 22, 1964

Photograph by Matt Herron