Lee Friedlander Captured a Moment of Change

THE DAILY PIC: Early shots by Friedlander at the Yale University Art Gallery record protests that mattered.

THE DAILY PIC (#1788): It’s easy to become discouraged about the effectiveness of public protest­—until you look back at how much it has mattered in changing American life. That came home to me this week at the Yale University Art Gallery, in a show of very early shots by the great Lee Friedlander. In 1957, at the age of 22, he photographed the Prayer Pilgrimage For Freedom in Washington, one of the first mass gatherings of the Civil Rights movement. There’s something terribly poignant about seeing blacks still living under Jim Crow—including Mahalia Jackson and Martin Luther King, Jr., in this shot—meeting at the feet of Lincoln’s statue, and calling on their country to complete the project he began.

Here’s what’s most surprising about their movement: It truly worked in waking the nation up to their cause. Similarly, would we be talking so much about the One Per Cent if it hadn’t been for Zuccotti Park? All governments depend on the will of the governed, at least in the long run. Say loudly that you won’t put up with any more crap, and the governors start running scared. (©Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; photo courtesy Eakins Press Foundation)

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