MLK 50: Part Three

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. A year before his death, during his "Where Do We Go from Here?" speech, he said that "in spite of a decade of significant progress, the problem is far from solved."

In honor of King's legacy, throughout this month we will be highlighting some of our recent titles that shed light on the progress we’ve made and the work still to be done. To read Parts One and Two, click here and hereRead Part Three, an excerpt from No Small Thing: The 1963 Mississippi Freedom Vote by William H. Lawson, below.

One Man One Vote, Freedom School and CORE office, Meridian. July 4, 1964. Photograph by Jim Lucas, 

Jackson, May 29, 1963

"Norman found himself on the front page of the New York Times not once, but twice, and in very different poses. Under the headline ‘Negro Is Beaten and Kicked at Lunch Counter in Mississippi’s Capital,’ Norman appears in two drastically different photos; in the first photo, Norman is seen sitting at the Woolworth’s downtown lunch counter in Jackson. The Summer before the Long, Hot Summer Norman is sitting with another black student from Tougaloo College with a sign advertising $0.70 roasted turkey dinners and Coca-Cola hanging behind them. The accompanying image is not so Rockwellian; Norman is seen lying on the ground as former police officer Benny Oliver kicks him, surrounded by a group of onlooking white men. The crowd appears unimpressed and unmoved—one man smokes a cigarette while watching. The photos take on the quality of montage at this point, aided by the simple captions; we know, or at least think we know, that Norman was removed from his stool and then beaten and kicked by Oliver. Our minds do the sequencing for us. Here we see on the front page of the New York Times evidence of racial violence and hatred in the American South.
           This was not the only photograph taken of the previous day’s sit-in. Fred Blackwell, shooting for the Jackson Daily News, took what would be one of the more iconic photos of not just the student sit-ins that swept across the country but of the civil rights movement itself. Blackwell’s photo, which ran in Newsweek the following week, remains in the visual consciousness of our civil rights memories. Pictures of dogs and hoses unleashed on young Birmingham protesters mix with images of Martin Luther King Jr. marching arm-in-arm in Selma to create an almost photo-album-like history of the civil rights movement. This moment from the Jackson sit-in forever captured by Blackwell shares one key thing with other iconic civil rights photos: it wanted to be taken; it was designed to be taken."