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Photos of MLK at Work: The Civil Rights Leader Before and After His “I Have a Dream” Speech

The National Portrait Gallery looks at the work of Martin Luther King beyond his most famous hour

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking before a crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington in 1963. Photo by Robert Adelman. © Bob Adelman. All photos courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

In time for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the National Portrait Gallery‘s newest exhibition, “One Life: Martin Luther King, Jr.” looks at the inspiring career of the civil rights leader, from his childhood all the way up to his unfinished Poor People’s Campaign. The show’s curator, Ann Shumard, says she wanted to offer visitors a glimpse of the man beyond the momentous speech he delivered at the March on Washington. King is remember too often only for his “I Have a Dream” speech, cast as an awesome orator but not the man of action that he truly was. In fact, only one portrait in the exhibit captures King in a formal pose. The rest show him either with his family or at work, linking arms with fellow protestors, riding a recently desegregated bus after a successful boycott or rallying from the pulpit. The one-room exhibition opening Friday shows the highs and lows of a career cut short.

King with his wife, Coretta and their daughter Yolanda, by Dan Weiner, 1956. © Sandra Weiner

King (left)  rides on an integrated bus after helping organize a successful bus boycott, by Ernest C. Withers, 1956. © Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. courtesy of the Withers Family Trust

This portrait was made by Boris Chaliapan for the cover of TIME magazine, 1957.

At a press conference in 1960, Jack Lewis Hiller got this shot of King. ©1960 Jack L. Hiller

In a rare moment of calm, King posed for this photograph by Yousuf Karsh in 1962. © 1962 Estate of Yousuf Karsh

A more familiar pose for King. Photo by Bruce Davidson, 1963. © Bruce Davidson / Howard Greenberg Gallery

Though the March brought legislative successes, King’s mission was far from over. Linking arms with Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh of the University of Notre Dame, King sings “We Shall Overcome” in 1964. Unidentified artist, gift of the University of Notre Dame.

King continued to stay against injustice, whether it was slum housing in Chicago or the war in Vietnam, as he did here with Benjamin Spock in 1967. Photo by Benedict J. Fernandez. © Benedict J. Fernandez

 

The exhibit, “One Life: Martin Luther King, Jr.” opens June 28, 2013 and runs through June 1, 2014 at the National Portrait Gallery.

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About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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