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Get the behind-the-lens story from these iconic civil rights moments

Get the behind-the-lens story from these iconic civil rights moments


In 2017, an anonymous donor gifted the Library of Congress a massive archive of American photographer Bob Adelman, known for his images of the civil rights movement.

The donation includes 575,000 high-quality images, negatives, and slides, including 50,000 prints.

Adelman helped document the civil rights movements of the 1960s and remained active in social justice issues up until his passing in 2016. Now, the Library will continue to preserve his work in its Prints and Photographs Division.

Adelman was a close friend of Dr. King who was so impressed by Adelman's work that he invited him to take photos at several demonstrations, including the March on Washington.

The better-known photo from that day is one of King with a raised arm as delivering his "I have a dream" speech. The other, lesser-known photo is an identical shot, but with gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson toward the bottom.

The story goes that Jackson, in the crowd closest to King, shouted: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!"

When I photographed, I was intent on telling the truth as best I saw it and then to help in doing something about it.
Bob Adelman

Adelman earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s in philosophy from Columbia University and studied law at Harvard, but his studies didn't end in the classroom.

"He could think just fine, but he wanted something he could grasp," said Beverly Brennan, Curator of Photography at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Adelman gained an interest in the civil rights movement and started taking photos for the Congress on Racial Equality.

First Women's Lib march on 5th ave, New York City. August, 1970

First Women’s Liberation march on 5th ave, New York City. August, 1970.

The Library is still sifting through Adelman's archive, appraised at $4 million a few years ago. It is unclear when the archive will be available to the public.

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