The Life & Work of MLK: New Pictures from LIFE


martin luther king life 1 twn.jpg
(photo credit: Paul Schutzer/Courtesy of; for larger version click photo; description below)
What appears above and below are never before seen images illustrating two major Martin Luther King Jr. events — the 1957 “Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom,” in which King delivered the “Give Us the Ballot” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial as well as the “Freedom Rides of 1961” (specifically the leg from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi).
Photographer Paul Schutzer covered both these major civil rights events for features that appeared in LIFE, but these photos were “left on the cutting room floor”.
These photos are reprinted at The Washington Note with permission from The full gallery is available here.
It is the spring of 1961, and in the kitchen of a safe house in Montgomery, Alabama, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looks tense, perhaps worried. As a volunteer bends his ear, the 32-year-old civil rights leader glances toward one of the 17 students hunkered down with him — fresh-faced college kids who, moved by King’s message of racial equality, have risked their very lives.
The past two weeks have been harrowing for these young people — the “Freedom Riders,” they are called — as they inch across the state on integrated buses, their numbers reduced at every stop in the face of arrests, bloody mob beatings, fire-bombings. There to capture the mood in the room as the group plans its next brave move — a ride into Jackson, Mississippi — is LIFE photographer Paul Schutzer, who covered the “Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom” four years earlier and had seen firsthand the kind of courage and determination King could inspire in his followers.
Now, nearly 50 years after these Freedom Rides and in celebration of King’s birthday, presents never-seen photos taken by Schutzer, tracking King and the nation-changing movement he led, from the monuments of Washington to the streets of the Deep South.
martin luther king life 1 twn.jpg(here and at top of post) Photo of King in a kitchen, with student in foreground: “In May 1961, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King speaks to a volunteer inside a safe house in Montgomery, Alabama, that is providing temporary shelter for the Freedom Riders during the arduous trip through the Deep South. By this point in the Rides, the volunteers — young men and women, black and white — had faced brutal beatings, a fire bombing, and hospitals turning them away for medical treatment. Still, they remained determined to push into Jackson, Mississippi, with the mentoring of King and other leaders of the movement.”
(photo below) White men pointing towards bus: “LIFE‘s Paul Schutzer captures Southerners peering into the bus during a stop on the National Guard-protected ride between Montgomery and Jackson.”
MLK Schutzer Pics Montgomery.jpg
(photo credit: Paul Schutzer/Courtesy of; for larger version click photo)
(photo below) Inside bus, girl sleeping: “As a Freedom Rider sleeps on the bus, a guardsman is armed and alert.”
MLK Life Schutzer Pics 3.jpg
(photo credit: Paul Schutzer/Courtesy of; for larger version click photo)
One wonders forty years from now what never before seen iPhone photos will appear from some of history’s pivotal moments.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “The Life & Work of MLK: New Pictures from LIFE

  1. sanitychecker says:

    Yesterday, MLK was the most reviled man in America. Today he is revered as a saint.
    Today, Harlan Ullman is a respected foreign policy analyst at TWN. Tomorrow, he’ll be universally reviled as a war criminal.
    That’s how it goes.


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Gee, perhaps King, in his dialogue to the anti-zionists, also called the Muslims “ragheads”, like you do”
    The “you” being Nadine, of course.
    I wonder if King would censor such speech on a forum such as this, or if he would allow it to stand, hoping to lay bare the ugly face of bigotry from which so much hateful propaganda springs?
    Or actually, are such blatantly illustrative displays of racial hatred needed when viciously racist Israeli policies are justified and rationalized by a constant barrage of AIPAC scripted talking points and Israeli manufactured propaganda?
    Did Nadine REALLY need to use the term “ragheads” for us to realize where she is coming from?
    And was Wig-wag’s demeaning sterotypical labeling of the Arabs the first clue we received about the kind of poison she seeks to distribute here?
    I think not.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Or, uh, maybe King thought more along the lines that Wig-wag does, considering them “irrelevent”, “docile”, “uneducated”, and “ignorant”.
    Kinda like a herd of pastured cattle, eh?


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gee, perhaps King, in his dialogue to the anti-zionists, also called the Muslims “ragheads”, like you do.
    Ya think?


  5. Neo Controll says:

    “damned if those civil right’s Jews weren’t 10% “librul”” . . . make that 100%. Or 110%


  6. Neo Controll says:

    Neocon hits the mother lode. Not that the zionist state hasn’t betrayed every tenet of King’s Ghandian belief in the ensuing four decades. Or that the radical zionist haven’t betrayed liberal Judaism.
    Yeah, we all remember the symbiosis between the Jews and the blacks based around the civil right’s movement and other liberal causes. Those same Jews are ashamed and embarrassed over what Israel has come to represent.
    Necon nadine, as always taking things out of context, USUALLY doesn’t have a good thing to say about “libruls”, but when she can lift something ahistorically (and damned if those civil right’s Jews weren’t 10% “librul”, if not downright commie) to make a point for her beloved ziocons she’s the first one at the trough.
    No shame.


  7. Ross Sharp says:

    Mavis Staples shares some of her memories of King …


  8. nadine says:

    “Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism”
    – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
    “. . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist.’ And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–this is God’s own truth.
    “Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic, and ever will be so.
    “Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.
    “The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested–DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.
    “How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfilment of God’s promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land.
    This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.
    “And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism.
    “The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just ‘anti-Zionist’!
    “My friend, I do not accuse you of deliberate antisemitism. I know you feel, as I do, a deep love of truth and justice and a revulsion for racism, prejudice, and discrimination. But I know you have been misled–as others have been–into thinking you can be ‘anti-Zionist’ and yet remain true to these heartfelt principles that you and I share.
    Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–make no mistake about it.”
    From M.L. King Jr., “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,” Saturday Review_XLVII (Aug. 1967), p. 76.
    Reprinted in M.L. King Jr., “This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”


  9. Kathleen says:

    Over at Democracy Now
    Amy Goodman has a great interview up with Tavis Smiley focused on some of Rev. Kings more critical words about the militarism of the U.S.
    AMY GOODMAN: That was Vincent Harding, who helped write that speech for Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1967, that he delivered at the Riverside Church, calling for an end to the war in Vietnam.
    REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so,


  10. DonS says:

    Bizarre it is indeed POA. But remember that MLK is only celebrated by like-minded souls; given lip service by many others; reviled by a segment; and behaviorally honored in the breach by most. Even the process for declaring a holiday was acrimonious and remains so in many states. As to the contradictions between what King professed with the regard to the immorality of the US government in particular wars and in general policy, it’s pretty clear he would despise the support of aggression and ignoring of bigotry with a full breath. But since he can’t speak anymore, the status quo defenders don’t have to worry about getting an earful.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    There is something very bizarre about a nation that celebrates a man like MLK while maintaining facilities such as Gitmo and Bagram, militarily occupies two countries causing massive non-combatant casualties, and subsidizes some little racist fascist nation that just announced a huge addition to its illegal settlement expansion while viciously meting out violent police actions in response to peaceful protests.
    Even here on this blog, we see the same dichotomy, praise for MLK’s humanitarian concern for his fellow’s well being, while almost virtually every thread is contaminated and despoiled by a despicable bigot who uses racial epithets unabashedly, and who spreads hateful propaganda like a gardener spreads seed.
    Perhaps its time, as a nation, we stopped celebrating men like King, and started behaving like him.
    One could start by putting a cork in the obvious racial animous emanating from those of Nadine’s ilk.


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