Martin Luther King Jr. by Mural | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Camilo José Vergara began photographing art in poor urban areas in the 1970s. He soon realized that one of the most prevalent figures in the artworks was Martin Luther King Jr. (Camilo José Vergara)

Martin Luther King Jr. by Mural

Photographer Camilo José Vergara captures varying portrayals of the civil rights leader in urban areas across the United States

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Martin Luther King Jr murals
(Maura McCarthy)
Camilo José Vergara began photographing art in poor urban areas in the 1970s. He soon realized that one of the most prevalent figures in the artworks he documented was the civil rights leader. “You have a perfectly dressed man with a perfectly white shirt coming out of the sidewalk,” says Vergara of this Martin Luther King Jr. mural he photographed in an industrial neighborhood between north and central Philadelphia.

Painted by an unknown artist, the mural features an iconic image of King. With the pillars of the Lincoln Memorial in the background and his hand outstretched to an implied audience, King is poised as he delivers his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

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