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Bill Ingraham

Shaykh Muhammad Hassan sits in a Philadelphia police station after his arrest in a raid on Black freedom movement headquarters, September 1, 1964
Vintage wire photograph on paper
6 3/8 x 8 13/16 in. (16.19 x 22.38 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Gift of Eric Alterman
Accession Number: P2021.21.22

Leader Seized: Shaykh Muhammad Hassan sits with lowered eyes in a Philadelphia police station after his arrest in a raid on Black "freedom" movement headquarters. At left are some of the items seized in the raid. They include the makings for Molotov cocktail fire bombs, knives, and a small-caliber pistol. The movement's headquarters are near the area where a weekend of wild rioting and looting broke out Friday night, leaving a wide swath of destruction.

The Columbia Avenue Riots of August 1964 occurred amid a climate of white anxiety about the threat of black Muslims. In the immediate aftermath, many people, including prominent Civil Rights leaders, charged that the riots were the work of black militants and black Muslims. During the investigation that followed, officials uncovered little organized agitation on the part of Communists, New York Muslims, or other national groups, but they determined that several local black militants and Muslims were involved. Ultimately, three individuals were charged with inciting the North Philadelphia riots: Shaykh Muhammad Hassan, also known as Abyssinia Hayes; Raymond Hall; and Florence Mobley. Of those charged, Hassan was the most prominent.

After being asked to leave a national black Muslim group for being too radical, Shaykh Muhammad Hassan founded the National Muslim Improvement Association of America (NMIAA). Their temple and headquarters were located at 2338 W. Columbia Avenue in the heart of the riot activity. Hassan was also a businessman involved with the independent black economy, operating a dry cleaning business and a candy and cigarette store. On the night of August 28, 1964, many witnesses stated that they saw Hassan making announcements on a megaphone, but accounts conflict as to whether he was quelling or inciting the crowd. Hassan maintained that he was telling people to remain calm and get off the streets. One witness later testified to that effect, but others recalled Hassan leading a chant of “we want freedom, we want justice; let’s get these people away from the police.” While Hassan admitted to leading the chant, he claimed that he intended to distract the crowd from interacting negatively with the police. When police raided the NMIAA temple during the riots, they discovered weaponry and what they believed to be materials to prepare Molotov cocktails. Hassan was charged with riot, inciting to riot, and riotous destruction of property. On November 11, 1964, he was found guilty of riot and inciting to riot, but was acquitted of riotous destruction of property by an all-white jury. Hassan was sentenced to eighteen months to three years, with two years probation after his release and a $1,000 fine. He requested a new trial on the basis that insufficient evidence supported his convictions, but the request was ultimately denied.

On recto: typewritten title and date. On verso: manuscript title and date stamp.

Donated to the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College by Eric Alterman on December 16, 2021.

Sheet: 8 x 9 7/8

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)

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  • Image Dimensions: 6 3/8 x 8 13/16 in. (16.19 x 22.38 cm)

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