The Passing of a Civil Rights Hero

Industry Perspective

The Passing of a Civil Rights Hero

by Ron Leach

America lost one of the heroes of the civil rights movement with the recent passing of photographer Charles Moore at the age of 79. Many historians credited Moore's images with shifting public opinion in favor of equality for all Americans as he traveled throughout the south documenting the civil rights movement and used his images to spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Born in Hackleburg, Alabama in 1931, Moore served in the Marines as a photographer for three years before attending the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. He then took a job shooting for the morning and afternoon newspapers in Montgomery Alabama, the Montgomery Advertiser and the Montgomery Journal.

It was while working for the Montgomery Advertiser in 1958 that Moore photographed an argument between Martin Luther King, Jr. and two local policemen. These images were picked up nationally by the Associated Press and published in Life magazine, and soon Moore became known for his searing images of civil rights strife throughout the South. In 1962 he left the newspapers to launch a freelance career working for the Black Star photo agency.

Moore captured demonstrators doused by firemen wielding high-pressure hoses and being attacked by snarling police dogs. He photographed a back man being viciously beaten by a white lawman during the "Bloody Sunday" march from Selma, Alabama in 1965. Moore received numerous accolades for this work and was credited by both historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Senator Jacob K. Javitz for providing impetus to the passage of the civil rights laws of the 1960s.

Moore continued covering troubled spots throughout the world, covering the Vietnam war and conflicts in Venezuela, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He also did some notable work in the fashion, travel, nature and corporate arenas. He died of natural causes on March 11 in Palm Beach, Florida