1963: A Tumultuous Day

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Front and back of New York Times file photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. From a collection entitled “Unpublished Black History,” online here. Here is the story behind the King portrait:

Consider the close-up of Dr. King above. It is the only photo in this project that has been previously published; it has appeared many times over the past 50 years, as the backside of the print clearly shows, and it looks as if it might have been taken during a formal sitting.

But it was shot during the summer of 1963 on a day when black protesters hurled eggs at Dr. King as he arrived at a church in Harlem. Earlier that day, he criticized black nationalists, saying that those who called for a separate black state were “wrong.” Some believed that those remarks inspired the attack that night.

Our photographer snapped Dr. King’s picture as he participated in a round table that was broadcast on NBC….Sometime later, an editor cropped one of those images from the NBC appearance to create the head shot of Dr. King that is now so familiar and so disconnected from the tumultuous events of that day.

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