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Reies Lopez Tijerina (center) tells the audience waiting to launch the Poor People's Campaign march at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis why his group is taking part, May 2, 1968
Vintage wire photograph on paper
5 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (13.97 x 19.05 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: P2021.13.1106

Tijerina Speaks: Reies Lopez Tijerina (center) tells the audience waiting to launch the Poor People's Campaign march at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Thursday why the group he represents is taking part in the campaign originated by Dr. Martin Luther King. Tijerina represents a group of Spanish- Americans and Mexican-Americans in the campaign.

Ralph Abernathy (1926-1990) was a Baptist minister who, with Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the historic Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Abernathy co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was a major Civil Rights figure, serving as close adviser to King and later assuming SCLC Presidency.

Reies Lopez Tijerina (1926-2015), an activist who led a struggle in the 1960s and 1970s to restore New Mexican land grants to the descendants of their Spanish colonial and Mexican owners. As a vocal spokesman for the rights of Hispanos and Mexican Americans, he became a major figure of the early Chicano Movement (although he preferred "Indohispano" as a name for his people) and founded the Alianza Federal de Mercedes. As an activist, he worked in community education and organization, media relations, and land reclamations. He became famous and infamous internationally for his 1967 armed raid on the Tierra Amarilla courthouse. In March 1968, Tijerina was elected to lead the Chicano contingent of the Washington DC march of the Poor People's Campaign. They conducted the march on May 2, 1968, as planned. Tijerina, with three busloads from New Mexico, met up with the other Hispanic contingencies from Colorado, led by Corky Gonzales, and the Los Angeles, led by Alicia Escalante, Reverend Nieto of Texas, and Puerto Ricans from New York. Together, they convened in "Resurrection City" with the black factions led by Coretta Scott King and Ralph Abernathy. Tijerina insisted that the Native American delegations spearhead the march and be the first to demand justice, a proposal that had been approved during the original planning meeting with Dr. King. But when it came time to march, Abernathy's followers resisted the idea. Much was made of this "rift" in the mainstream press, which claimed that Tijerina insisted that the Hispanic delegation go first. En route to D.C., a group of Native Americans who were accompanied by Dick Gregory were detained by Washington State police. In protest, Tijerina organized a demonstration in front of the United States Supreme Court building on May 29. Police brutalized the demonstrators, but eventually, twenty delegates were permitted to meet with John Davis, the clerk of the court. The following month, leaders met with Secretary of State Dean Rusk. On June 23, 1969, the day that Warren E. Burger was sworn in as Chief Justice, Tijerina returned to Washington to place him under citizen's arrest. As he waited outside the Senate chamber, Burger never exited. He had dodged the arrest by exiting out a back door. Supporters of Tijerina formed the People's Constitutional Party in 1968.

On recto: typewritten title and date.
On verso: manuscript title and newspaper caption with date stamp 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)

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  • Image Dimensions: 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (13.97 x 19.05 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen
  • Sheet Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (16.51 x 21.59 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen

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