Charles Moore passed away last week, but he leaves behind a body of work that pushed, poked, and prodded the civil rights movement of the late 1950's and 60's. The struggle's forward movement was not coming from a broadening enlightenment of the masses as much as it was coming from the relentless aggressive attention of Americans who could no longer sit still. Instead, they marched in the streets, registered voters, boycotted shops and public transit, prayed, sang, and faced violence with faith and compassion.
Moore captured scenes now indelibly etched in our psyche. The one above shows an arrested Marin Luther King Jr, thrown over a Montgomery, Alabama police station counter while his wife looks on in 1958. His images appear in our school textbooks and hang on the walls of our greatest museums. They are simultaneously works of fine art and the epitome of photojournalism.
When we now look back on these photos, like this one of a water cannon attack on demonstrators in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, we cannot but think how it took so long to do what was so clearly right and just. Do you suppose there may come a day when we might look back on the current civil rights struggles around sexual orientation and think the same? Which side of history will you be on?
From a recent NPR piece by Claire O'Neill
"There are common names associated with the civil rights movement, like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. And there are lesser-known names like Charles Moore. His photos, which often appeared in Life magazine in the 1960s, are the ones that put faces to a movement for most Americans. He died last week at age 79.
Charles Moore had been in the military, he'd been a boxer, but, as he said in a 2005 documentary, his weapon of choice in the 1960s had a flash and a shutter. "I don't wanna fight with my fists," he said. "I wanna fight with my camera.'"
article cont'd with a Moore slideshow here.
listen to the NPR report here.
A great short documentary below:
Charles Moore is the legendary Montgomery photojournalist whose coverage of the Civil Rights era produced some of the most famous shots in the world (the dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, the Selma Bridge, and Martin Luther King’s arrest in Montgomery, among many others.) His photographs are credited with helping to quicken the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The noted historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said that Moore’s photographs transformed the national mood and made the legislation not just necessary, but possible. This is his story.