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