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Unknown Photographer

Rev. Vernon E. Carter of All Saints Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Missouri reads a Bible at a meeting protesting the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, September 1963
Vintage ferrotyped wire photograph on paper
7 1/2 x 9 3/16 in. (19.05 x 23.34 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Restricted gift of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Accession Number: P2021.13.655

The Reverend Vernon E. Carter of All Saints Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Missouri reads a Bible at a meeting today. Civil Rights groups called the meeting to protest a Birmingham church bombing in which four black children died.

The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963 was an act of white supremacist terrorism at the black 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps on the east side of the church. Described by Martin Luther King, Jr. as "one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity", the explosion at the church killed four girls and injured 22 other people. Although the FBI had concluded in 1965 that the bombing was committed by four known Ku Klux Klansmen and segregationists---Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry---no prosecutions were conducted until 1977. At that time, Robert Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of one of the victims, 11-year-old Carol Denise McNair. Eventually, states and the federal government renewed efforts to prosecute cold cases from the Civil Rights era. In the early 21st century, Alabama tried Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr. and Bobby Cherry. They were each convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Herman Cash died in 1994 and was never charged with his alleged involvement in the bombing. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. It contributed to support for Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On verso: newspaper caption affixed.

Wire photographs were originally transmitted over phonelines, then later, by satellite. They were first used in the early 1920s. Associated Press became a leader with this. After pigment touch-ups, etc., the print is put into a drum (like a drum scanner). The image gets converted into audio tones that are transmitted. The tones are received and beamed onto photo-sensitive paper. Wire photographs are copies without originals---they are hybrid, transmitted objects. (Britt Salvesen, Curator and Department Head, Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 30-31, 2022) Ferrotyped prints have a sensitive surface, usually shiny and thinner, because they are put through a press while still wet. Ferrotyping makes the surface of the photograph smoother. Light does not scatter as much on a smoother surface, so this increases contrast. That makes ferrotyped images better for press photography.

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  • Image Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 9 3/16 in. (19.05 x 23.34 cm) Measured by Cornejo-Reynoso, Aitzin
  • Overall Dimensions: 8 5/16 x 9 9/16 in. (21.11 x 24.29 cm) Measured by Cornejo-Reynoso, Aitzin
  • Sheet Dimensions: 8 1/8 x 9 9/16 in. (20.64 x 24.29 cm) Measured by Cornejo-Reynoso, Aitzin

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