VIA: New York Times
Charles Moore, a photographer who braved physical peril to capture searing images — including lawmen using dogs and fire hoses against defenseless demonstrators — that many credit with helping to propel landmark civil rights legislation, died on Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 79.
His daughter Michelle Moore Peel said he died of natural causes.
Mr. Moore’s camera snapped the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in Montgomery, Ala., in 1958, and James Meredith integrating the University of Mississippi in the face of a screaming mob in 1962.
He photographed Bull Connor using dogs and high-pressure hoses on peaceful civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, and recorded a black man being viciously beaten by a white lawman during the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma, Ala., in 1965.
These crisp, fluid black-and-white photographs appeared most prominently in Life magazine at a time when general-interest picture magazines remained such a powerful force that critics now speak of it as the “golden age of photojournalism.”
Both Senator Jacob K. Javits and the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. credited Mr. Moore’s images with building popular support for the passage of major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s.
Mr. Moore, who was white, grew up in Alabama as the son of a Baptist minister, who not only denounced racism but who also occasionally preached in black churches. The son said he used his camera to continue the fight. But as a Southerner, he well knew the delicate line he had to walk.
On the one hand, he said in an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser in 2005, he refused to get on his knees and beg as racists had demanded. On the other, he said, he did everything possible to avoid confrontation, explaining that if he were arrested he couldn’t photograph.
“I’d let people trip me, jostle me, pull my hair and threaten to smash my camera,” he told The New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1997.
Hank Klibanoff, who with Gene Roberts wrote “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation” (2006), said in an interview Monday that Mr. Moore, almost always using a short lens, would immerse himself in the middle of the action. He often appeared in the pictures of other photographers who were standing back.
One of Mr. Moore’s images shook the author Paul Hendrickson to the core. The picture showed six Mississippi sheriffs and a deputy, some chortling, waiting to confront Mr. Meredith at Ole Miss. One appears to be showing the others how to swing a riot club.
Mr. Hendrickson wrote about the seven lawmen in “Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy” (2003). The photo is included in Mr. Moore’s 2002 book, “Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore.”
He worked for the Black Star picture agency, which sold much of his work to Life.
Mr. Moore is survived by his brother, Jim; his sons, Michael and Gary; his daughters, April Marshall and Michelle Moore Peel; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Mr. Moore he always said his civil rights work was his most important, and in 1989 he received the inaugural Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism.
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