Inscribed, on reverse, upper center, in blue type: APR 5 2 46 PM ’68; Inscribed, on reverse, upper right, in purple type: 1968 APR 5 PM 3 15; Inscribed, on reverse, upper upper right, in graphite:ST1183; Attached, on reverse, lower left edge, printed in black: [barcode] / AJT-854-CT; [unintelligible red pencil script over graphite script, bottom right]; Adhered, on reverse, center: two newspaper clippings featuring detail from photograph, one dated in red typeface on clipping, SEP 4 1958 with caption: [AP Wirephoto] “The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., anti-segregation leader, under arrest Wednesday in Montogomery, Ala. on charge of loitering. (Story on page 6, part 2) [“Rev. Martin Luther” in caption underlined in with blue pencil, “King” circled with blue pencil], other clipping dated in red typeface APR 7- 1968 and features the caption: [AP Wirephoto] “Led Away in Alabama/ Arrested on a charge of loitering in Montgomery, Ala., Dr. King is held by policeman using arm lock in 1958.”
In this photograph, Martin Luther King Jr. is in police custody while waiting for the results of an arraignment concerning the assault of a fellow bus boycott leader, Ralph Abernathy. The police officer at right almost seems upset that he is being observed, with his eyes piercing through the image to look at us. Despite the relatively placid photograph, King reported that this arrest was particularly violent, stating afterward that the officers pictured here used excessive force during the arrest and that he was later kicked after being placed in a jail cell, once the cameras were gone.
King was arrested 29 times during his career fighting for civil rights, which tragically ended in his assassination in 1968. While we know King often encountered resistance, this arrest image is particularly shocking because of how revered King is in contemporary culture. We rarely see images of King in such a vulnerable situation. This photograph serves as a sad reminder of the aggression he experienced during his struggle for equality.
From the 2022 exhibition A Space for Dialogue 104, Southern Gothic, curated by Abigail Smith '23, Conroy Intern
A Space for Dialogue 104, Southern Gothic, Abigail Smith, Class of 2023, Conroy Intern, Alvin P. Gutman Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 8–February 27, 2022.
Civil Rights, Photographs of the Movement for Equality in America, 1956-1968, Lee Gallery, Winchester, Massachusetts, Fall 2014.
Lee Gallery, Winchester, Massachusetts; sold to present collection, 2015.
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