History Of Pittsburgh
4:25 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

Rare Photos Recall Pittsburgh's Reaction to Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death

Marchers gather outside St. Benedict the Moor Church in the Hill District.
Credit Charles Martin / University Of Pittsburgh

Forty-five years ago this month, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. sparked protests and riots across the country.

On Friday, the University of Pittsburgh Library system will recount a protest held in Pittsburgh on Sunday April 7, 1968, with a program that includes a series of photos taken by freelance photographer Charles Martin.

Larry Glasco, a University of Pittsburgh history professor, said the photographs bring a new view to the event that was much more peaceful than many other marches and rallies seen around the U.S.

“It’s one thing to have a speaker come in or have an event or occasion,” he said. “But the photos themselves really create certain immediacy and make you present and make you feel what it was like," Glasco said. "So in that sense, this is really quite striking and unusual. There really hasn’t been anything like it.”

According to Glasco, photos of the protest are rare. On the day of the event, only four photos total were run by two of Pittsburgh’s newspapers, and only a scant few other photos have since surfaced of the event.

Martin took many more than that. Twelve of the 189 photos he took that day will be on display at the event.

Glasco called the photos Martin took that day “a very unique and valuable resource that brings that era to life in a way that we just don’t have.”

Looking back, Glasco says the peaceful march was an incredible event.

“Thousands of people participated in it — black and white, Protestant, Catholic, Jews, young and old; there were priests, there were ministers, there were some rabbis, there were college students," he said. "It was really a nice cross section of the Pittsburgh population that participated in it.”

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday in the Dick Thornburgh Room of Pitt’s Hillman Library. The event is free and open to the public.