Library of Congress Acquires Bob Adelman’s Civil Rights Archive

Posted by on Wednesday March 29, 2017 | Photojournalism

Authorities turn fire hoses on Civil Rights protesters, Birmingham, Alabama 1963. ©Bob Adelman

The Library of Congress has acquired the photographic archive of renowned Civil Rights photographer Bob Adelman, who died last year at the age of 85. The archive, which was provided to the library as a gift from an anonymous donor, includes 575,000 images. About 50,000 of those images are prints, and the rest are negatives and slides, the library said in its March 20 announcement of the gift.

Adelman photographer leading figures and seminal events of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He stood a few feet from Martin Luther King, Jr., photographing the the Civil Rights leader as he delivered his “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington. Adelman documented lunch counter protests, police attacks with dogs and fire hoses against protesters in Birmingham, and  freedom march from Selma to Montgomery.

He also photographed the speeches and funeral of Malcolm X, riots in Newark and Harlem during the late 1960s, and the hardships of African-American life in both rural and urban areas. Adelman, who was white, approached the Civil Rights movement as an activist and artist, rather than a journalist, and served as a volunteer photographer for the Congress of Racial Equality in the early 1960s.

In addition to his Civil Rights work, he photographed people, events and other social issues from 1960 until 2000. Those photographs are included in the donation to the Library of Congress.

“My life’s work, in addition to being about race relations, is about the many and diverse social concerns in the great tradition of American documentary photography:  poverty, mental illness, alcoholism, inadequate housing, the immigrant experience, prostitution, delinquency, illiteracy and on and on,” Adelman is quoted as saying in the Library of Congress announcement.

The Library of Congress will house the Adelman archive in its Prints and Photographs division. The library offers access to its collections on site and online, but offered no details in the announcement about how or when the Adelman archive will be made accessible to the public.

Related:
Bob Adelman, Civil Rights Photographer, Dies at 85
How to Preserve Your Archive for the Future


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