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Studs Terkel Archive, African American civil rights photo research and photo direction

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

One of the more robust topic areas of the Studs Terkel Radio Archive are discussions around civil rights in the United States--ranging from interviews with Martin Luther King, Jr. to SNCC organizers, to kids on the street affected by systemic racism, artists, authors, and many in between.

One of the recordings I was tasked with illustrating was a retrospective program the day after Martin Luther King's assassination. The program included his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and it would've been easy and obvious to use one of the iconic black and white god-like images of MLK at the podium giving that speech. However, true to Terkel's spirit and MLK's roots as a community and labor organizer, I actively sought an image that was not only a rare full-color photo of MLK to draw in audiences, but to also showed demonstrate the larger purpose of the March on Washington. MLK's speech is often head/seen out of context of the full day and purpose of the march, so I wanted to visually place his legacy among those he worked with, not just one speaker at a bay of microphones.

In viewing some of the other images, we can easily compare the struggles of fifty years ago with events and civil rights fights continuing today--such as the juxtaposition of military on the streets where children play, police brutality against black men, black artists and entertainers using their platform to lift these issues, segregated and unfair school systems, breaking barriers in politics, the list goes on and on.

Color photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
Leaders of March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963: (R - L) Rabbi Joachim Prinz, unidentified, Eugene Carson Blake, Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick, Matthew Ahmann. ©Robert W. Kelley/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images


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