The American Civil Rights movement in the mid-twentieth century was one of the defining social events in American history. This mass protest movement in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in significant legislative actions, including the Civil RIghts Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The photographs and other materials in the custody of the Still Picture Branch include images documenting social movements in the United States, including many landmark moments in the Civil Rights Movement, including the 1963 “March for Jobs and Freedom,” where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Many photographs documenting the Civil Rights Movement can be found in the Records of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Though the United States Information Agency primarily operated internationally, the agency’s mission was to "to understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions, and their counterparts abroad". In pursuit of this mission, the Agency collected photographs of domestic activities that could be used to promote the interests of the United States abroad or to inform or provide context to news reports that may have been circulating. It is important to note that many of the images in the U.S. Information Agency collections were collected from other sources, and copyrighted images may be found throughout the USIA collections.
Many notable images have been digitized and are available in the National Archives Catalog.
"Aerial Photographs Related to the Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights March”
338-SE: These records are highlighted in a blog post on The Unwritten Record. This series consists of oblique aerial photographs taken in Montgomery, Alabama during the third Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights March. The images document the last stage of the march from the St. Jude campus to the Alabama State Capitol Building.
“Photographs of Civil Rights Programs at the Lincoln Memorial”
79-LM: The photographs in this series, which were collected by the National Capital Parks, consist of views of various civil rights events held on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
“Photographs of African-American Youth at Regional 4-H Camps”
33-HR: This series consists of photographs documenting the participation of African-American 4-H members in Regional 4-H Camps. Subjects include African American youth, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees, and Extension Service agents, and prominent individuals. The 4-H members are pictured attending demonstrations and sightseeing, often at small group sessions exchanging ideas about agriculture, home economics, and rural health.
“U.S. Army Signal Corps Photographic Albums of Far Eastern, European, and United States Maps and Charts, and of the 1949 Freedom Train Exhibit Documents”
111-MC: The photographs in this series are mostly black and white views of various maps and charts of U.S. military operations in the European and Far Eastern theaters during the last two years of World War II and the immediate post-war period.
“Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs”
306-SSM: This series consists of photographs documenting subjects relating to nations with the United States Information Service (USIS) field offices and other events and subjects considered to be useful for informing and influencing foreign opinion regarding the United States. Not that some images in this series may be subject to copyright.
Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin Painted by Two Women Artists
H-HNP: This series is a collection of black-and-white and color photographs of a set of oil paintings "Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin" commissioned by the Harmon Foundation. The set originally comprised 22 portraits painted by Betsy Graves Reyneau and Laura Wheeler Waring. Over time the number of paintings increased to 47. Please note that images in this series may be subject to copyright.
The Harmon Foundation Collection: Kenneth Space Photographs of the Activities of Southern Black Americans
H-HS: This series consists of photographs taken by Kenneth F. Space, a photographer hired by the Harmon Foundation. The majority of the photographs document the educational, social and recreational activities of students at several historically black colleges and universities in the southern United States. Many of these images were highlighted in a Google Arts and Culture online exhibit.
Master File Photographs of U.S. and Foreign Personalities, World Events, and American Economic, Social, and Cultural Life
306-PS and subseries: This series consists of photographs that reflect the diversity of photographic sources tapped by the United States Information Agency (USIA) in its efforts to define and propagate American values. In addition to the material from USIA staff camera people and USIA sources abroad, images come from such picture services as Associated Press and Black Star; magazines and newspapers ranging from "Life" to the "Des Moines Register"; the military services as well as civilian government agencies; private organizations ranging from the Red Cross to Standard Oil; and such well-known photo studios as Harris and Ewing of Washington, D.C. Note that some images may be subject to copyright.
To Request Information about Records
For further information about the photographs and graphic works held in the Still Picture unit at College Park, contact:
Mail: Still Picture Reference
Special Media Archives Services Division
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001
If you’d like to use an image from the Still Picture Branch holdings, please see our Copyright and Permissions page.