New Yorker Photo Booth: Recounting the Freedom Riders and Attacts on the Press

July 21, 2011 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

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Maryland National Guard units patrolling the streets outside a laundry establishment after an outbreak of racially motivated violence

The view from The New Yorker's photo department

Via The New Yorker
Photo Booth



July 21, 2011


Calvin Trillin Remembers Donald Uhrbrock

In this week's issue of the magazine, Calvin Trillin writes about his experience as a young reporter for the Atlanta bureau of Time, in 1960 and 1961. In the piece, Trillin describes a scene in which the photographer Donald Uhrbrock, who was covering the Freedom Rides for Life, was assaulted at the Trailways bus station in Montgomery, Alabama. Trillin, Uhrbrock, and Norman Ritter, the Life correspondent based in Atlanta, had followed the Freedom Ride bus from Birmingham in a car. When they arrived, the police caravan that had escorted the bus from Birmingham "melted away at the city limits," Trillin writes.

"A man in a short-sleeved white shirt and a necktie—he looked like, say, a bus dispatcher—approached a TV cameraman, pulled out some sort of club, and took a swing," Trillin told me. "The man in the white shirt seemed to be the leader of a small group of men who were there to attack first the press and then the Freedom Riders. Don was photographing this, and, of course was attacked himself. When they tried to get his cameras, he said he'd give them the film, and he handed it over. All this time, we were slowly moving down the parking lot toward the street, with violence breaking out sporadically. Suddenly, a man appeared and said something like 'Let's get them out of here.' He said it with such authority that the attackers, presumably not knowing whether he was police or some high-ranking thug, let him push us toward a cab that was at the curb. He turned out to be a former Montgomery Advertiser reporter who'd arrived on another bus for a visit and had simply taken charge. I'm ashamed to say that I don't know his name. As we got near the cab, I felt Don handing me a roll of film. 'Put this in your pocket,' he said. The roll he'd handed his attackers was blank. This roll had on it the picture that appeared in Life," of one of the attackers kicking the TV cameraman.

Uhrbrock was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer whose work for Life in the fifties and sixties covered the first astronauts, the civil-rights movement, and the Cuban missile crisis. A selection of his civil-rights-era photographs follows.

Photographs by Donald Uhrbrock/Time & Life Pictures/Getty

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Calvin Trillin, working for Time, interviewing John Lewis in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961
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A cameraman being kicked by an unidentified man during a Freedom Rider demonstration
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A lunch-counter scene. Many sit-in movements succeeded in desegregating lunch counters and other public facilities in the South
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 A proponent of continued segregation
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An African-American man is arrested in an encounter with white high-school students who were chasing other African-Americans
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Martin Luther King, Jr., is escorted by police officers to a hearing on charges of probation violation following his arrest for assisting a student sit-in
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A nonviolent protester is taken away by police at a civil-rights demonstration
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Maryland National Guard units patrolling the streets outside a laundry establishment after an outbreak of racially motivated violence
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Tags: Freedom Riders Life magazine Civil Rights civil rights photography