THE TRANSFORMATIONAL civil rights, human rights, and democracy work of Martin Luther King Jr., was largely understood and represented by public events—soaring and poignant speeches, strategic marches and protests, and multiple arrests.

On Sept. 3, 1958, King was arrested outside the courthouse in Montgomery, Ala. Illustrated by Ronald Wimberly, the moment is captured on the Jan. 17 cover of The New Yorker.

 


RONALD WIMBERLY,”King Arrested for Loitering, 1958,” 2021 (gouache, ink, zip tones, on paper). | The New Yorker, Jan. 17, 2022

 

In Montgomery, when King arrived at the courthouse to observe the arraignment of a man accused of assaulting Ralph David Abernathy, the civil rights activist, Baptist minister, King lieutenant, and friend, police prevented the civil rights leader from entering the courtroom. After King said he would wait outside, he was arrested and charged with “loitering.”

Photojournalist Charles Moore (1931-2010) captured the entire incident as it unfolded—King’s arrest, police officers twisting and pulling his arms behind his back, and pushing him down the street to the police station for booking.

The photographs Moore took that day inspired Wimberly’s first cover for The New Yorker. His interpretation is a loosely rendered line drawing of King flanked by two faceless, white police officers in the background. A watercolor-style treatment animates the image, infusing it with color and drama, conveying King’s frustration and enduring dignity.

Wimberly describes himself as a cartoonist, designer, and storyteller. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., he grew up in Washington, D.C. Today, he works as an illustrator/animator and comic book artist. In 2018, he founded LAAB Magazine, a tabloid-format publication with a sharp-edged editorial voice that “examines race, gender, history, and the political and social implications of aesthetics through the media of comic strips, written discourse, and visual essays.” A new issue was recently published.

“I knew that this was a man who was going to make a difference. I did not know at the time that my pictures might make a difference. But I knew this man would make a difference.” — Photographer Charles Moore

MOORE’S PHOTOGRAPHS are among the most recognizable images from the civil rights era. A white photojournalist from the South, Moore held King in high regard and believed he had the vision to bring about change.

“I knew that this was a man who was going to make a difference. I did not know at the time that my pictures might make a difference. But I knew this man would make a difference,” Moore said in “I Fight with My Camera,” a short documentary by Daniel Love.

A native of Alabama, Moore was a Marine Corps photographer and subsequently got his start as a photojournalist at the Montgomery Advertiser. He was first assigned to cover King when he was delivering a sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he presided in Montgomery, just a few blocks from the newspaper’s office.

“I was a witness to some very important, crucial events in history photographing the Civil Rights Movement in the South over a period of seven years for my newspaper and also for Life magazine. For all journalists covering the civil rights story through the 60s it was difficult, exhausting, and oftentimes very dangerous. For me, it was all of the above, plus troubling and emotional in a personal way, too, because I am a Southerner, too,” Moore said in the documentary.

“Pictures can absolutely make a difference. That’s what photojournalism is. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.” CT

 

READ MORE about the making of Ronald Wimberly’s King cover for The New Yorker on his Patreon (access requires paid membership). The post is titled “Fox Condemns the Trap (process)”

FIND MORE about Ronald Wimberly’s LAAB magazine

ON VIEW An exhibition about LAAB Magazine is currently on view at the Columbus Art Museum in Columbus, Ohio, where Ronald Wimberly participated in the Columbus Comics Residency in 2016

 

FIND MORE In the Jan. 17, 2022, issue of The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb writes about the lessons embedded in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words

 

READ MORE about Ralph David Abernathy in his New York Times obituary

 


“Charles Moore: I Fight With My Camera” (2004) provides an insightful and succinct look at the Alabama-born photographer’s experience covering Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. From 5:16-7:07, Moore discusses photographing King’s Sept. 3, 1958 arrest, which inspired the image by Ronald Wimberly that illustrates The New Yorker cover. | Video by Daniel Love

 

BOOKSHELF
Ronald Wimberly’s publications include “Black History in Its Own Words” and “Prince of Cats,” Charles Moore’s photographs are showcased in “Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore” and “Unfamiliar Streets: The Photographs of Richard Avedon, Charles Moore, Martha Rosler, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia”

 

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