Bob Adelman, Who Photographed Iconic Civil Rights Moments, Dies : The Two-Way His photos appeared in national newspapers and magazines. But Adelman was an artist and activist first. He was a part of the civil rights movements.

Bob Adelman, Who Photographed Iconic Civil Rights Moments, Dies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


When Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, standing a few feet away with a camera to his eye was a man named Bob Adelman. From the March on Washington to Dr. King's funeral, Adelman captured some of the most iconic images of the civil rights movement. He died over the weekend in Miami Beach, and NPR's Eyder Peralta has this remembrance.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: One of Bob Adelman's best-known photographs shows four civil rights activists holding hands. It's 1963 in Birmingham, and they're walking toward a confrontation with policemen who are using water cannons to clear the streets.


BOB ADELMAN: Those hoses were so powerful, they could skin the bark off trees.

PERALTA: That's Adelman talking about that photograph a few years back on NPR.


ADELMAN: A single individual could not stand up, but as a group they could. And it became emblematic. That picture was used actually as part of the recruiting for the March on Washington.

PERALTA: Adelman was there for the lunch counter protests in Alabama and at Malcolm X's funeral. His photos appeared in national newspapers and magazines, but Adelman was an artist and activist first. Bonnie Clearwater, who put on the retrospective of his work at the NSU Museum in Fort Lauderdale says that made him unique.

BONNIE CLEARWATER: He was part of the movement, so he had access into both big moments and intimate moments that most photojournalists wouldn't.

PERALTA: Adelman, who was a white man, became interested in African-American life after watching Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker in the late '40s. When he heard about the student sit-in movement, he offered to help. In his interview with NPR, he quoted the author Ralph Ellison. He said that the black experience is part of the experience of all Americans.


ADELMAN: Ralph emphasized in our conversations that a special sensitivity to African-Americans was incumbent on all Americans because, you know, this country was torn apart by the race question and resolved it in favor of equality.

PERALTA: Bonnie Clearwater says that beyond the civil rights movement, Adelman photographed women's liberation and the gay rights movement.

CLEARWATER: He felt passionately about injustice and what could he do as a photographer to make change.

PERALTA: Adelman who was 85, was found dead in his home on Saturday. Police say they're investigating his death. Eyder Peralta, NPR News.


BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) I'll be seeing you in all the old...

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.