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When King Came To Chicago: See The Rare Images Of His Campaign — In Color

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When King Came To Chicago: See The Rare Images Of His Campaign — In Color

Photography

When King Came To Chicago: See The Rare Images Of His Campaign — In Color

When King Came To Chicago: See The Rare Images Of His Campaign — In Color

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/481456509/482630040" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Raby (left) and Ralph Abernathy at City Hall in Chicago, in 1965. Courtesy of Bernard Kleina hide caption

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Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Raby (left) and Ralph Abernathy at City Hall in Chicago, in 1965.

Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved with his family to Chicago, where he was to spend a year laying the groundwork for bringing the civil rights movement to the North. The campaign came to be known as the Chicago Freedom Movement — a broadening drive against segregation, which was often as thorough in practice in the northern states as in the South, especially when it came to housing.

The front page of the 1965 Selma Times-Journal, which showed Bernard Kleina — then Father Kleina — being arrested. Courtesy of Bernard Kleina hide caption

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Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

Bernard Kleina was there, too. The Chicago native and former Catholic priest documented the King-led demonstrations in the city — and he did so in rare color photographs.

"In Chicago, I was involved in some of the marches and in other marches I tried to document what was going on," Kleina recalls. "There was a great deal of criticism of Dr. King, saying that he was the one causing the violence, so I wanted to show the truth of what was going on."

Kleina was a newcomer to photography, and especially to photojournalism. "I only — before that — took photos of my family and vacations."

As a young priest, Kleina was drawn to the civil rights movement. He followed King to Selma, Ala., in 1965, but he says he couldn't take photographs there for fear his camera would be destroyed. But in 1966, when King moved to Chicago, Kleina says he was thought it important to use his camera to document events, especially to document that the demonstrators were peaceful and not the ones provoking the riots.

Jesse Jackson and Albert Raby at Chicago Freedom Movement rally (left). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd (center). Mob and police during Chicago Freedom Movement march in Marquette Park in 1966 (right). Courtesy of Bernard Kleina hide caption

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Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

As for why those photographs are in color? Well, that was kind of an accident.

"Virtually no one else shot in color at that time of demonstrations, because at least the pros wanted to be sure that their images would be in newspapers and magazines. I definitely didn't realize at the time I was photographing Dr. King that history was being made," Kleina says.

"Even now, it kind of surprises me when I look back at my own images. But I like to tell people that if you wait until you're completely qualified for something, maybe it's too late."

The crowd at the Chicago Freedom Movement rally at Soldier Field in 1966 (left). Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd at Soldier Field.
Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

(Clockwise from top left) The crowd at the Chicago Freedom Movement rally at Soldier Field in 1966; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd at Soldier Field; white protesters march in Marquette Park, Chicago, with signs showing support for segregationist politician George C. Wallace, in August 1966; protesters in front of a Chicago real estate office in Marquette Park, Chicago, 1966. Courtesy of Bernard Kleina hide caption

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Courtesy of Bernard Kleina

His time following Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago inspired Bernard Kleina to launch a career as a professional photographer. His work is now included in the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution.

He eventually left the priesthood and also worked as a fair housing advocate.

"Because of Dr. King and his focus on open housing, I became involved in a fair housing center outside of Chicago. For the last 41 years, I tried to use my photography to help people understand the hurt of discrimination," he says. "The Chicago Freedom Movement started in 1965, but it's still going on, and it's up to us to carry on his work."