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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)
“When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.” The text on this brightly colored mural is from King’s 1968 book Where Do We Go From Here. In this passage of the book, King appeals to “white liberals” to rally to the cause of civil rights rather than observe the movement in “indifference.”

The graffiti below King’s face is a fact of the neighborhood, says Vergara. “Just about everybody has a positive association with King. An image like this might last a lot longer than another image with less authority. Everything gets tagged, but some images stay untagged for longer.”

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