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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)
“This is not at all a characteristic picture of him,” says Vergara. In contrast to the peaceful, contemplative images that predominate of King , this mural in South Central Los Angeles shows King reaching out for help, a look of anguish on his face. In the background is a picture of a motel, likely the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where he was murdered in 1968. The assassination, for which escaped convict James Earl Ray was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison, sparked riots across the country, affecting as many as 110 U.S. cities.

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