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Mao Zhang Zhenshi
Behind the camera: Zhang Zhenshi (1914 – 1992) was a famous effigy painter and outstanding fine art educator in China
Where: China
Photo Summary: A painting of Chairman Mao. The original painting stands 91cm high and 68cm wide
Picture Taken: Was created for the 1950 anniversary, the first anniversary, of the Communists take over of mainland China

The Communist Party of China after taking control of mainland China began at once building a personality cult around the Communist leader, Chairman Mao. His image appeared all over the country but it was this image created on the first anniversary, in 1949, of the Communists take over of mainland China that became the most reproduced image of Mao.


Mao Zedong (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) was a Chinese communist leader who led the Communist Party of China (CPC) to victory against the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War. The 20-year long civil war technically ended when Mao’s forces captured all of mainland China on which the CPC established the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, in Beijing. The CPC is technically still at war with nationalist forces who retreated to and still remain on the island of Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC). Both Taiwan and mainland China declare that they are the real China.

Mao leadership remains a controversial subject. Many see his rule as a great revolutionary leader who led China from a poor backward nation to world superpower. Critics point to the infamous, Great Leap Forward which killed anywhere from 20 to 70 million Chinese or the Cultural Revolution which greatly disrupted the country, for almost a decade. Officials now don’t know where to stand on Mao’s rule and the official line is that his policies were 70% right and 30% wrong. The book the Evil 100 list Mao as the third most evil person in history behind Hitler and Stalin.

Portrait for Power

Mao Original Zhang Zhenshi

The original painting by Zhang Zhenshi

Over 30 painters were chosen to create portraits of Chairman Mao for the 1950 anniversary of the revolution. One of the painters, Mao’s favorite, was Zhang Zhenshi. Most of the 30 paintings have since been lost or destroyed but Zhang’s image of a solemn Mao dressed in a simple grey tunic was reproduced as a poster that was put up everywhere in China. The model for the giant image of Mao that hangs in Tiananmen Square is based on this image.

The Original

On June 3, 2006, the original painting was set to go on the auction block. The Beijing Huachen Auction Company which stated there would be no location restrictions on the portrait and that the sale would have been open to both Chinese and foreign bidders were forced to cancel the auction after a huge outcry from the Chinese public. Mao is still beloved by many Chinese and they feared that a foreign bidder would take it out of the country. Eventually, a deal was reached with the private Chinese-American owner who agreed to sell the painting to China’s National Museum. The purchase was jointly financed by the museum and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. For the auction, the painting was valued at $120,000 American dollars but the price actually paid was not disclosed.

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Smiling Sada Abe

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Another photo with more somber police

Behind the camera: Published in the Mainichi Newspaper
Where: Leaving the Takanawa Police stn in Tokyo
Photo Summary: Sada Abe with policemen after her arrest
Picture Taken: May 20, 1936
This image is in the public domain because of its age

In 1930s Japan a Japanese woman became infatuated with and strangled her lover to death. After his death, she cut off his penis and carried it around with her while being chased by the police. When news of the crime broke that a “sexually and criminally dangerous woman was on the loose,” the nation was gripped with what was called “Abe Sada panic.” On the run for a few days, she was caught and spent six years in prison. She later became a sensation in Japanese culture for many decades. At the time of her arrest police were struck with her calm demeanor.

Sada Abe’s life

Born in 1905 Sada Abe was the youngest child of four. An independent girl at a young age she was sexually assaulted and perhaps due to this assault became difficult for her ageing parents to control. Abe was always fascinated with the Geisha lifestyle and so her father sold her to a Geisha House although there is some debate on whether she wanted to go or not. Abe found living the life of a Geisha extremely frustrating and quickly fell out with the house and turned to prostitution. She spent years working in the brothels until becoming the mistress of Kichizo Ishida.

Kichizo Ishida

The two became incredibly infatuated with each other spending days in hotels with marathon sex sessions that didn’t stop even when maids cleaned the rooms. When Ishida would return to his wife Abe became incredibly jealous and flirted with the idea of murdering him. Buying a knife she even threatened him during the next visit to the hotel but Ishida thought she was just role-playing and didn’t take her seriously. While making love she tried to strangle him with a cord but he actually enjoyed the restriction of his breath and told her to continue which threw her off. Later in the night, he passed out and Abe wrapped the cord again around his throat and strangled his sleeping body to death. Using the knife she removed his genitals with a knife, using the blood from the wound she wrote “Sada and Kitchi together” on the sheets, and carved her name on his arm with a knife. Later when the police asked about why she took Ishida’s genitalia, Abe replied, “Because I couldn’t take his head or body with me. I wanted to take the part of him that brought back to me the most vivid memories.”

“Abe Sada panic” and arrest

Another photo with more somber police

When the body was discovered the police released a media alert that sparked a public panic over a crazed woman running around Japan chopping of genitalia. Police were swamped with sightings from around the country. After the murder, she drifted around Tokyo eventually ending up in a hotel in southern Tokyo. After a massage and beers at the Inn, she fell asleep.
Police who were visiting all hotels, trying to find her, became suspicious of the alias she used to sign in. After apologetically entering her hotel room Abe Sada supposedly told the police, “Don’t be so formal, You’re looking for Sada Abe, right? Well that’s me. I am Sada Abe.” The police didn’t actually believe her but were finally convinced when she displayed Ishida’s genitalia. While interrogating Abe officers were struck by Abe’s demeanour. When they asked why she had killed Ishida. “Immediately she became excited and her eyes sparkled in a strange way [and she said] ‘I loved him so much, I wanted him all to myself. But since we were not husband and wife, as long as he lived he could be embraced by other women. I knew that if I killed him no other woman could ever touch him again, so I killed him…..’ William Johnston who wrote the book, Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan suggests that what made Abe so fascinating to the Japanese public was that “she had killed not out of jealousy but out of love.”

Later life

Abe was sentenced to six years in prison which she served and was released. She tried to live her life in obscurity but the nature of her crime brought her back into the limelight. She wrote a book about her life and there were many other unofficial bios published.
The Abe craze started a little cottage industry in Japan. The hotels they stayed at saw a huge jump in business as young couples wanted to stay in the same room. Shinagawaka, the Inn where she was arrested, kept the room in the same condition as when the police caught her. In addition to the books published there are even some movies about her life, including a number of A/V films or Porn Movies.

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By the Sword

Behind the camera: Yasushi Nagao
Where: Stage of Hibiya Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Photo Summary: Otoya Yamaguchi thrusting his sword into Socialist party leader, Inejiro Asanuma
Picture Taken: October 12, 1960

1960 saw great political turmoil in Japan as the ruling party, the LDP, tried to pass the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The Japan Socialist Party tried in vain to stop the bill’s passage in the Diet even physically preventing LDP members from entering the parliament chamber before being removed by police. Failing to stop the bill the Socialists and their supporters took to the streets in sometimes violent protests that even forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel a planned trip to the country. Hoping to capitalize on the anger that the bill was passed on June 19 Socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma planned an American style televised rally for the upcoming Lower-house election. It was at this rally that an ultra-nationalist member Otoya Yamaguchi rushed the stage and twice plunged a samurai blade into Asanuma’s stomach. The picture captured by Mainichi photographer Yasushi Nagao was published around the world and eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography the first time someone from Japan had won the award. With the award, Nagao was able to travel freely around the world, something that was difficult for Japanese citizens at the time. He died of natural causes on May 2, 2009.

Taking the photo

Yasushi Nagao was one of thirty-six photographers that worked for the daily Japanese newspaper, Mainichi. On that day he was assigned to cover the election debate at Hibiya Hall. Before he entered the Hall he slipped a twelve-exposure film pack into his 4×5 Speed Graphic camera. As Asanuma started his speech right-wing hecklers started throwing objects at the stage while shouting, “Shut up, Communist” and “Banzai the U.S.A.”
As police moved in to remove the hecklers most of the press covering the event followed them in hopes of getting some good crowd shots. Nagao chose to stay at the stage. The young Yamaguchi dressed in his high school uniform slipped past the police and ran onto the stage. Out of the corner of his eye saw Yamaguchi jump on stage and Nagao by instinct changed the focus from 10 to 15 feet. He initially thought that the boy “was carrying a brown stick to strike Asanuma.” Running full speed across the stage the young assassin slammed the blade deep in the belly of Asanuma, the impact forced the two to spin apart. Nagao had waited until this point as the impact had pushed Yamaguchi and Asanuma out from behind the podium. Nagao snapped the moment as Yamaguchi prepared to thrust his blade a second time into Asanuma’s belly. The photo was his last unexposed negative.
Realizing that he had a great image Nagao rushed his roll of film to the Mainichi building. By agreement, UPI had exclusive rights to all Mainichi news pictures and they radio-photoed Nagao’s image back to the States where it was published in numerous newspapers and magazines including the October 24, 1960 issue of LIFE magazine. The image won every photo award in America including the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1961.

The assassin

Colourized by Ömercolorize

17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi was a member of an ultra-right-wing nationalist group. His father, Shimpei Yamaguchi, was a colonel in the Japanese Self-Defense force. Even though Shimpei Yamaguchi was forced to resign his commission he defended his boy saying: “A rightist is better than a leftist.”. When Otoya was arrested police records record that he expressed regret that he was only able to kill Asanuma. He had planned to kill three people: Communist member Sanzo Nosaka, Japan Teachers’ Union Chairman Takeshi Kobayashi as well as Asanuma. The sword he used is called a wakizashi which is a small blade that the samurai used to wear. It was found by Otoya in the bottom of his father’s closet a week before the assassination.

On November 2nd, while in a juvenile detention center, Otoya used toothpaste to write a message on his wall: “Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!”. He then tore his bedsheet into strips which he used to make a rope to hang himself in a Japanese ritual called owabi. Owabi is a samurai tradition in which one commits suicide to apologize to those inconvenienced by Asanuma killing.

Inejiro Asanuma

The 225 lbs (102 kg) politician was the left-wing leader of the Japanese Socialist Party. He often enraged the Japanese conservatives by publicly supporting communist China. In 1959 he visited Red China and even went so far to say, “the United States is the common enemy of the Japanese and Chinese peoples.” To prevent the passage of the Japanese American mutual defense pact Asanuma organized large snake-dancing demonstrations that eventually prevented President Eisenhower from visiting the country. After his assassination, the Socialist party paraded his widow in hopes of generating sympathy votes from the Japanese public. Even with the support after Asanuma’s murder during the November 20, 1960 election the LDJ won with 296 seats compared to 145 seats of Socialist party down from 166 seats they held during the 1958 election.

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Reagan Assassination Attempt

Behind the camera: Assembled media members and ABC cameraman Hank Brown
Where: In front of Washington (D.C.) Hilton Hotel located at 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, near the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenues, a few blocks north of Dupont Circle
Photo Summary: The aftermath of John Hinckley’s assassination attempt
Picture Taken: March 30, 1981, 69 days into the United States Presidency of Ronald Reagan

Jerry get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs
-Regan to his secret service agent

Reagan’s shooter was a mentally ill John Hinckley Jr who had an obsession with actress Jodie Foster after seeing the film, Taxi Driver. He stalked her for a number of years before he decided that he needed to do something grand to get her attention. Hinckley decided to try and kill the president imitating Travis Bickle the lead character (played by Robert De Niro) of the movie Taxi Driver who also tried to kill a famous politician. On March 30, 1981, Hinkley ambushed the President who was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after delivering a luncheon address to AFL-CIO representatives. The attempt on Reagan’s life was caught on camera and is often used as one of the most famous pieces of footage of that era.

Video Breakdown

The footage starts with Aides to the President and then the President himself walking down to the Executive Limo parked outside the hotel. It seems like any other day and in the background, you can hear reporters about to ask questions. As the limo comes into the frame you can see a bald James Brady the President’s Press Secretary walk towards the cameraman. Just as Reagan reaches the Limo you hear loud pops, screams and then a commotion as Secret Service and Police wrestle Hinkley to the ground.
As the first shots ring out you can see secret service agent Tim McCarthy wearing a light blue suit go into an almost football stance as he tries to block the bullets from Hinkley’s gun. He succeeded in taking one of the bullets in his abdomen. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital successfully removed the round from his stomach, and he fully recovered. He received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982 in recognition of his bravery.
As the street clears you can see wounded lying on the street. James Brady, who took the first bullet, is the closest lying face down and not moving. Shot in the forehead he would suffer brain damage and became permanently disabled. Farthest away from the camera is secret service agent Tim McCarthy and right next to the wounded Brady is District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delehanty who was shot in the back by the third of John Hinckley, Jr.’s six bullets. He would later recover from his wounds.
As the camera pans down to Brady you can see Hinkley’s gun a Rohm RG-14 .22 cal. revolver on the ground and later you hear police asking for a tissue to take the gun into evidence. Agents are screaming for a police car to take Hinkley away. Eventually, the car comes but the rear door of the squad car jams so then they have to take him to another police car further down the street. As they hustle Hinkley into the patrol car the ambulance pulls up to treat the wounded.

Mr. President, today we are all Republicans
-Head surgeon and liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano

Reagan Remembers

My speech at the Hilton Hotel was not riotously received – I think most of the audience were Democrats – but at least they gave me polite applause. After the speech, I left the hotel through a side entrance and passed a line of press photographers and TV cameras.
I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left – just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, “What the hell’s that?” Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. “Jerry,” I said, “get off, I think you’ve broken one of my ribs.”
“The White House,” Jerry told the driver, then scrambled off me and got on the jump seat and the car took off. I tried to sit up on the edge of the seat and was almost paralyzed by pain. As I was straightening up, I had to cough hard and saw that the palm of my hand was brimming with extremely red frothy blood. “You not only broke a rib, I think the rib punctured my lung,” I said.
Jerry looked at the bubbles in the frothy blood and told the driver to head for George Washington University Hospital instead of the White House. By then my handkerchief was sopped with blood and he handed me his. Suddenly, I realized I could barely breathe. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough air. I was frightened and started to panic a little. I just was not able to inhale enough air. We pulled up in front of the hospital emergency entrance and I was first out of the limo and into the emergency room. A nurse was coming to meet me and I told her I was having trouble breathing. Then all of a sudden my knees turned rubbery. The next thing I knew I was lying face up on a gurney and my brand-new pinstriped suit was being cut off me, never to be worn again.
The pain near my ribs was still excruciating, but what worried me most was that I still could not get enough air, even after the doctors placed a breathing tube in my throat. Every time I tried to inhale, I seemed to get less air. I remember looking up from the gurney, trying to focus my eyes on the square ceiling tiles, and praying. Then I guess I passed out for a few minutes. I was lying on the gurney only half-conscious when I realized that someone was holding my hand. It was a soft, feminine hand. I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it. It gave me a wonderful feeling. Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt. It must have been the hand of a nurse kneeling very close to the gurney, but I couldn’t see her. I started asking, “Who’s holding my hand? Who’s holding my hand?” When I didn’t hear any response, I said, “Does Nancy know about us?” — Reagan autobiography

Regan again lost conscious and when he again woke up he saw his wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan. Still keeping his wits he jokingly explained, “Honey, I forgot to duck” (borrowing Jack Dempsey’s line to his wife the night he was beaten by Gene Tunney for the heavyweight championship).
Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet, which barely missed his heart, Reagan remarked to the surgical team, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” The head surgeon, liberal Democrat Joseph Giordano, replied, “Mr. President, today we are all Republicans.”
Reagan had been scheduled to visit Philadelphia on the day of the shooting. He told a nurse, “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” a reference to the W.C. Fields’s tagline (which was itself a reference to an old vaudeville joke among comedians: “I would rather be dead than play Philadelphia”).

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Martin Luther King Jr Killed

Behind the camera: James Louw
Where: Balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Photo Summary: A mortally wounded Martin Luther King Jr surrounded by friends and aides. Marrell Mccullough appears to be holding him in his arms
Picture Taken: Minutes after the bullet struck at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968

By all accounts, King was in a jovial mood that April 4 day. While standing on the balcony he joked with friends and colleagues while he waited for his jacket. At 6:01 a shot rang out, hitting King in the side of the face. Friends rushed to his side and desperately tried to stop the bleeding. Police soon appeared on the scene guns drawn asking where the shot came from. Those on the balcony pointed in the direction of an old run down hotel across the street. That moment was captured by photographer, James Louw, and now lives in infamy as King’s death shot.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement, a political activist, and a Southern Baptist minister. In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment for different races). In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday, only the fourth Federal holiday to honor an individual (the other three being in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus). In 2004, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Considered by many as one of the greatest public speakers in U.S. history, Dr. King often called for personal responsibility in fostering world peace. King’s most influential and well-known public address is the “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Garbage Strike

In late March 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black garbage workers of AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment: for example, African American workers, paid $1.70 per hour, were not paid when sent home because of inclement weather (unlike white workers). The night before on April 3, Dr. King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple, delivering his famous I’ve been to the Mountaintop address. After the assassination, the city quickly, quietly, and on favorable terms settled the strike.

In High Spirits

This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.
-Reverend Abernathy to King

The owner of the Lorraine Motel, Walter Bailey, where King was staying claimed that King was a frequent guest at the establishment and that Reverend Ralph Abernathy, told the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) under oath that he and Dr. King stayed in room 306 at the Lorraine so often that it was referred to as the “King-Abernathy suite.” Bailey also remembers that on that fateful day, April 4, 1968, King was especially happy and while he was getting ready was, “teasing and cutting up” those present. One of King’s best friends and number two man in the SCLC, Reverend Abernathy, remembers that around 1 that day he and King had fried catfish for lunch and then Abernathy had a nap waking around 4 p.m. to King on the phone asking him to come over to his Brother’s, who was travelling with them, room.
When Abernathy arrived King told him that dinner was set for 6 p.m. as they had been invited for prime rib roast and soul food such as chitterlings, greens, pig’s feet and blackeyed peas at the local Rev.
Samuel “Billy” Kyles house.

From right to left Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph David Abernaty posing for pictures on April 3, 1968. They are on the same Lorraine Motel balcony that Dr. King would be killed on the next day.

While the two got ready back in their room 306 Rev Kyles appeared and told them to get a move on or they would be late for the dinner. Dr. King had to assure Kyles that he had telephoned the preacher’s home and that Mrs. Kyles had said dinner was not until 6. “We are not going to mess up her program,” said Dr. King.
King and Kyles went to the balcony that overlooked the motel parking lot and swimming pool. There was a crowd of people present getting ready to go for dinner. King greeted the people below and from the second floor, Rev Kyles had a short conversation with the SCLC attorney Chauncey Eskridge who had been in Federal court most of the day trying to solve some legal problems with the strike protest.
Other SCLC members were in the courtyard including advance team members Rev. James Orange and James Bevel. They had been sent ahead of time to deal with a black militant group called, The Invaders. The Invaders were pushing for violence something King deplored. In fact, Orange had just arrived with Invader member, Marrell McCullough, who was, in fact, an undercover agent working as a mole in the Invader group.
King’s chauffeur, Solomon Jones, who had been beside King’s limo all day looked up and noticed that King didn’t have a jacket and called up that King should put on a jacket as it was getting cold. Witnesses recall that Dr. King smiled back at his driver and said, “Solomon, you really know how to take good care of me.” They were about to go when Abernathy decided to slip back into the hotel for some aftershave while King waited on the balcony chatting to members of his entourage below.

At 6:01 p.m., as Dr. King stood behind the iron balcony railing in front of room 306, the report of a high-powered rifle cracked the air. A slug tore into the right side of his face, violently throwing him backward.
At the mirror in room 306, Abernathy poured some cologne into his hands. As he lifted the lotion to his face, he heard what sounded like a “firecracker.” He jumped, looked out the door to the balcony and saw that Dr. King had fallen backward. Only his feet were visible, one foot protruding through the ironwork of the balcony railing. According to Abernathy, the bullet was so powerful it twisted Dr. King’s body so that he fell diagonally backward. As Abernathy rushed out to aid his dying friend, he heard the cries and groans of people in the courtyard below.
Just below the balcony, Jones recalled that Young and Bevel shoved him to the ground just after the firecracker sound. He looked up and saw Abernathy come out of the room and then realized that the prone Dr. King had been shot. Lee, who had been talking with Young and Bevel, took cover behind a car and then noticed Dr. King’s feet protruding through the balcony railing.
Memphis undercover policeman McCullough recalled that immediately before he heard the shot, he saw Dr. King alone on the balcony outside room 306, facing a row of dilapidated buildings on Mulberry Street. As he turned away from Dr. King and began to walk toward his car, McCullough, an Army veteran, heard an explosive sound, which he assumed was a gunshot. He looked back and saw Dr. King grasp his throat and fall backward. According to McCullough’s account, he bolted up the balcony steps as others in the courtyard hit the ground. When he got to Dr. King’s prone figure, the massive face wound was bleeding profusely and a sulphurous odor like gunpowder, perhaps Dr. King’s depilatory, permeated the air. McCullough took a towel from a housekeeping tray and tried to stem the flow of blood.
Eskridge had heard a “zing” and looked up toward the balcony. He saw that Dr. King was down, and as Abernathy walked out onto the balcony, Eskridge heard him cry out “Oh my God, Martin’s been shot.” A woman screamed.
Abernathy recalled that when he walked out on the balcony, he had to step over his mortally wounded friend.
…the bullet had entered his right cheek and I patted his left cheek, consoled him, and got his attention by saying, “This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.”
Kyles, who had started to walk toward his car, ran back to room 306. Young leaped up the stairs from the courtyard to Dr. King, whom he found lying face up, rapidly losing blood from the wound. Young checked Dr. King’s pulse and, as Abernathy recalled, said, “Ralph, it’s all over.”
“Don’t say that, don’t say that,” Abernathy responded.

Kyles ran back to room 306 to call an ambulance but the switchboard operator, the motel owner’s wife, wasn’t at her desk. Kyles would later find out that she had gone out to the parking lot so that she could see Dr. King. When she saw what happened, she collapsed with a heart attack and would later pass away as a result.
Having no luck with the motel phones Kyles ran onto the balcony and noticed police in the courtyard screamed for them to call an ambulance on their radios. While waiting for it to come he took a spread from one of the motel beds and covered him from his neck down. He also took a crushed cigarette from his hand. Dr. King never smoked in public as he didn’t want the kids to see him smoking.
A King biographer, Taylor Branch, claims that King was still conscious while on the balcony and that his last words were to Ben Branch (no relation to Taylor Branch) a singer that was going to play that night: “Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand,’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”
Rev Abernathy kneeling over his friend tried desperately to stop the bleeding. Around 5 mins after King had been shot an ambulance arrived and took him away to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.

Jesse Jackson is Born

People freaked out and did strange things
-Andrew Young

King’s wound produced a huge amount of blood and after the ambulance took away his body all that was left a huge pool of King’s blood. Ralph Abernathy in a state of shock grabbed a jar and started scraping up the blood, crying how it was King’s blood and precious, “This blood was shed for us.”
Jesse Jackson also still in shock had by this time made his way to the balcony from where he was hiding down by the pool. Andrew Young remembers seeing Jackson dip his hands in the huge pool of blood and after raising them to the sky wiped them on his shirt, “people freaked out and did strange things … it was_ it was_ I mean, what do you do in a moment like that”?
The main players in the SCLC quickly followed Kind to the hospital leaving Jesse Jackson behind in shock. However, it was the tragedy of King’s death that the star of Jesse Jackson was born. Media quickly swarmed the hotel where King had been shot and they quickly focused on the young SCLC member with King’s blood all over his shirt. With the rest of the SCLC off at the hospital Jesse became the media spokesman:

The black people’s leader, our Moses, the once in a 400 or 500-year leader has been taken from us by hatred and bitterness. Even as I stand at this hour, I_ I cannot even allow hate to enter my heart at this time, for it was sickness, not meanness, that killed him.
People were_ some were in pandemonium, some were in shock, some were crying, hollering, “Oh, God!” And I immediately started running upstairs to where he was and I caught his head and I tried to feel his head and I asked him, I said, “Dr. King, do you hear me? Dr. King, do you hear me?” And he didn’t say anything and I tried to hold his head. — Jesse Jackson

While the rest of SCLC was back at the motel trying to figure out the next step, Jesse Jackson quickly made his way back to Chicago where hours after King’s death he appeared on the Today show with his bloody shirt while a newly hired booking agent got him spots on other TV shows. Overnight Jesse Jackson became a nationally known figure of the civil rights movement.

Country in Mourning

The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 60 cities. Five days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was meeting with several advisers and cabinet officers on the Vietnam War in Camp David.

The Lone Gunman?

Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone
Conclusion of U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations

Two months after King’s death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder, confessing to the assassination on March 10, 1969 (though he recanted this confession three days later). Later, Ray would be sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively calling him “Percy Fourflusher”) claiming that a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias “Raoul” was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not himself, further asserting that although he didn’t “personally shoot Dr. King,” hinting at a conspiracy he may have been “partially responsible without knowing it”. He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.
There was much attention devoted to the identity of Raoul and the involvement of Ray’s brother, Jerry Ray. One book by William Bradford Huie, They Slew The Dreamer, labels Raoul as George Ben Edmondson. Edmondson was a convict who learned computer programming in a Jefferson City prison and escaped eventually making his way to Canada where he worked for the West German Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal. Nothing else was made of the connection and Edmondson was released and returned to Canada but the media attention by the time of his release had died out and nothing was followed up. Edmondson himself saw the allegation as ridiculous. Another theory offered by a 1977 New Times magazine article suggested that Jerry Ray (James’ brother) and “Raoul” were one and the same. State prosecutors in Memphis claimed to have investigated Raoul and did find the individual but insisted that he had nothing to do with the killing and was working on the day he was shot.
U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the Kennedy and King assassinations released a report in 1978 that Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone. They concluded that a group of white supremacists in St. Louis, reportedly with a $50,000 bounty on King’s head, might have been involved, too. The house committee’s full report is sealed until the year 2029.

On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison. More years were then added to his sentence for attempting to escape from the penitentiary. Ray died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70 from complications related to kidney disease, caused by hepatitis C probably contracted as a result of a blood transfusion given after a stabbing while at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It was also confirmed in the autopsy that he died of liver failure.

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Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock

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Behind the camera: Will Counts
Where: Outside the Little Rock Central High School
Photo Summary: Elizabeth Eckford followed by an angry mob. Mary Ann is on the far left. Olen Spann is wearing the hat Sammie Dean, in the dark dress is turning to talk to her father. Hazel Bryan is the one shouting ‘Go home, n#$ger! Go back to Africa!’ Standing behind Hazel is Lonnie Ward, the man with the unbuttoned V-neck is unknown but man with the striped shirt partially blocked by Elizabeth is Richard Stinnett. To the right of the image the woman and man with the camera are unknown
Picture Taken: September 4, 1957

On September 4, 1957, Elizabeth Eckford put on her new dress, made by her, and made her way to Little Rock Central High School. The 4th was to be her first class and her and 8 other Black children were to be the first African-Americans in the school of 2000 white students. She was excited to start classes but as she approached the school she saw a huge crowd protesting her presence. As she approached the school National Guard men, again and again, refused to allow her past them and so she turned to leave but was immediately surrounded by an angry white mob who shouted obscenities as she disparately tried to navigate through the crowd. As she walked in terror photographer Will Counts snapped this iconic image of her.

Coming to school

Elizabeth Eckford

Colourized by Marina Amaral

Three years earlier the American Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 decision to integrate the South’s school system. Days later the Little Rock school board said it would comply but by 1957 it was still stalling efforts to enroll black students in white schools. On September 3, 1957, federal judges ordered the State to begin desegregation and that night the director of the Arkansas chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., Daisy Bates called the nine black students the group had chosen to be “strong enough to survive the ordeal but placid enough not to make trouble” to come to her house the next day. Then from her house, they would go as a group to the school. Eckford, one of the nine, didn’t have a phone and so never got the notice to meet and Bates’ house.

However, events were moving against the nine as the Governor seeking to thwart any effort of desegregation had called in the National Guard and had them ring the school. Publicly he said that they were there to prevent any violence but they were really present to stop the Black children from entering school grounds.

The Mob

The next day Elizabeth Eckford boarded the bus that took her downtown to the Little Rock Central High School. Getting off at 12th and park she walked toward the school. Guards at the entrance denied her access and then the crowd of several hundred angry white protesters saw her and someone in the crowd shouted out at her to go home. She tried three more times to enter the school each time blocked by the rifles of the National Guard. In Daisy Bates’ book The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir she interviewed Eckford who recalls:

For a moment all I could hear was the shuffling of their feet. Then someone shouted, ‘Here she comes, get ready!’ I moved away from the crowd on the sidewalk and into the street. If the mob came at me I could then cross back over so the guards could protect me.
The crowd moved in closer and then began to follow me, calling me names. I still wasn’t afraid. Just a little bit nervous. Then my knees started to shake all of a sudden and I wondered whether I could make it to the center entrance a block away. It was the longest block I ever walked in my whole life.

By now over 250 angry protesters were shouting racial epitaphs and calling for her to be lynched to the nearest tree. Looking just to escape she walked towards the next bus stop down the block hoping the crowd would let her get on board. One of the most aggressive of the crowd was a student of Central High, Hazel Bryan. Hazel was there with her friends Mary Ann Burleson (girl on the far left with the purse) and Sammie Dean Parker (dark dress with head turned). Mary Ann and Sammie Dean were just enjoying the action but to Hazel, she felt that chasing Eckford away was her moral duty! Benjamin Fine another photographer there recording the scene remembers that she was “screaming, just hysterical!”

Finally, she reached the bus stop and sat down on the bench. Reporters formed an informal ring to protect her from the mob one Robert Schakne of CBS News tried to interview her but she refused to speak. Finally, after 35min sitting and taking the verbal abuse the bus came and she went right to her mother’s work where she collapsed into her arms.


The next day Eckford for the first time went to N.A.A.C.P. director Daisy Bates’ house and laid into the woman “Why did you forget me?” Bates would later recall the “cold hatred” directed at her from Eckford’s eyes. For two weeks the nine black students who were supposed to enter the school stayed at home waiting their fate. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s picture flashed around the world showing up in Papers everywhere from Moscow to the Vatican. Eckford got letters, calls and well wishes from people as far away as Japan.

Two weeks later another date was set on September 23. This time all the Black students assembled at Bates’ house and they moved as a group to the school. This time there were able to get in easily as the mob was distracted by some whites beating on a group of black reporters.

Even though the students had finally gained entry their battle wasn’t over. Every day the faced harassment, no more so that Eckford who as school records revealed was attacked almost every day before she just stopped reporting them. The Black nine though stuck it out but the white establishment fought back by shutting down the school rather than have more blacks join and for the 1958/59 school year it was closed. Eckford was forced to flee the city to St Louis to finish her high school.

Elizabeth Eckford

While at the segregated Horace Mann Junior High School Elizabeth was a rapid reader and got good grades. She was already something of a loner before she went through the incredibly emotionally draining events Little Rock. After the incident, she was withdrawn and lived her something of hermit life. After spending 5-years in the army she returned to Little Rock having two children and suffering severe depression. She avoided speeches and anniversaries about the incident and when she did speak she would have a bag ready in case she threw up or she would come down with panic attacks and forced to leave suddenly. Through a successful medication routine, she was able to get a handle on her depression which had a long history in her family.

Elizabeth suffered further tragedy when in 2003 her son Erin Eckford at the age 26 was shot down by police after refusing to drop his assault weapon. Erin had inherited his families mental sickness and Elizabeth feared that his death was “suicide by police”. The officers involved were later cleared in the shooting.

Elizabeth and Hazel

The picture joined the two girls together and they would find that their lives would be synced for the rest of their days. In 1963 Hazel had an epiphany and renounced her racist ways even calling Elizabeth Eckford on the phone and apologizing. Eckford accepted it and even became sort of protective of her. For decades they didn’t talk but as the racial crisis faded Hazel began to seek out Eckford in an effort to seek some sort of repentance. The two even took a picture together in front of the school in 1997, again by Will Counts. Again in the limelight, Hazel seemed to enjoy her newfound celebrity much to the chagrin of Eckford. In Sept 2007 Vanity Fair did an exhaustive, in-depth story about their on and off again relationship

Will Counts

Counts was born in America’s south and worked as a photographer-editor for The Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock and for The Associated Press in Chicago and Indianapolis. His 1957 iconic image of Elizabeth Eckford at Little Rock was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for photographs in 1957 and it was “named by The Associated Press as one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th century.”

He went back to College to earn an education degree before returning to get his master’s and doctoral degrees from Indiana University. He taught at Indiana University for 32 years, retiring in 1995. He also wrote a few books including The Magnificent 92 Indiana Courthouses, Revised Edition and A Life Is More Than a Moment, 50th Anniversary: The Desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High

On October 7, 2001, he died of cancer at the age of 70 in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Face to Face the Oka Crisis

Behind the camera: Shaney Komulainen
Where: First Nation blockade near the Club de golf d’Oka
Photo Summary: Patrick Cloutier face to face with Brad ‘Freddy Krueger’ Larocque
Picture Taken: September 1, 1990

After the Mohawk First Nations had fought off the local Quebec police force (which created another iconic image) the Oka Crisis developed into a standoff. The Canadian government sent in the Royal 22e Régiment or Van Doos to create a barb wire perimeter around the Mohawks in order to contain the situation. Entrances at this blockade were often tense as shown when a young Shaney Komulainen captured this iconic moment between baby faced Van Doo member Patrick Cloutier face to face with Brad “Freddy Krueger” Larocque.

Oka Crisis

Over three hundred years ago the New France government granted land to the Catholic Sulpician seminary in 1717. Part of the land, a Mohawk burial ground was reserved for the local Mohawk First Nation. The seminary held the land in trust for the Mohawks but would over the years take full ownership. A military confrontation in 1869 between Mohawks and missionaries over the land had to be put down by local militia. The land remained in dispute even when it was sold by the seminary to private concerns. In 1961, the city had obtained ownership of the land and built a private nine-hole golf course, the Club de golf d’Oka, on a portion of the land. When they wanted to expand the golf course the Mohawks erected barricades to stop construction. A court order ruled on the side of the city and ordered the blockade to be removed. The Mohawk’s refused and on July 11, 1990, a police fast action response team tried to drive off Mohawk activists using tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades. In the confusion, someone opened fire and a 15-minute bullet exchange ensued forcing the police to fall back, abandoning six police cruisers and a bulldozer. During the firefight, 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was shot in the face and died a short while later.

Taking the picture

Shaney Komulainen didn’t get into the Mohawk enclosure before it was closed off by the military. Arriving late she had to sneak into the encampment through military lines recounting:

I snuck through backyards and past police cars with my camera tucked under my jacket, looking like one of the locals. [Her eyes were drawn to the baby face of private Cloutier ] He just looked so young under that strong helmet and gear, … In the end, it summed up the whole crisis, because there was still this tense standoff, even ‘till the end.

The siege ended on September 26 and as the people in the Mohawk enclosure left their camp Komulainen was arrested, handcuffed, strip-searched and held by the Quebec police for five hours. The next January Komulainen was involved in a near-fatal car crash that left her with a broken arm and two broken legs. While she was recovering in the hospital she learned that the police were laying charges against her including, “possession of a weapon or an imitation of a weapon, threatening and interfering with the work of a peace agent, and participating in a riot,” later in the year she was found “Not Guilty”. To make matters worse her car accident prevented her from working and she returned to school studying journalism and social work. Years later she had recovered enough to return to photography.

The men

After the image was taken private Patrick Cloutier became famous across Canada and around the world. He rose through the ranks to become Master Corporal but in 1993 was demoted after admitting to cocaine use. After a drinking and driving incident, he was kicked out of the military and as a civilian seeking to cash in on his fame he started in the 1995 pornographic, Oka spoof, Quebec Sexy Girls. For a while, he lived in Florida before moving back to Quebec and lives in the village of Saint-Maxime-du-Mont-Louis.

The masked man is often confronting Cloutier is often misquoted as being legendary and camera-friendly Mohawk warrior Ronald Cross aka Lasagna but was Brad “Freddy Krueger” Larocque a student of Economics at the University of Saskatchewan. From the Ojibway First Nation, he had joined the Mohawks in solidarity. After the siege ended he moved back to Saskatchewan.

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Mohawk Warrior

Behind the camera: Tom Hanson
Where: First Nation blockade near the Club de golf d’Oka
Photo Summary: Richard Nicholas standing on top of an overturned Sûreté du Québec police vehicle that had been turned into a barricade
Picture Taken: July 11, 1990

In 1990 the Oka golf course wanted to expand their course onto land that the local Mohawk community of Kanesatake viewed as their historical, sacred burial ground. The Mohawks in an effort to stop development set up roadblocks. The major ordered the blockades down and in the ensuing violent confrontation one police officer, 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay, was killed and the blockades still left standing. One of the First Nation activists, Richard Nicholas, climbed on top the newest addition to the Mohawk blockades, overturned police vehicles seized after the government forces had retreated. Below the blockade were two photographers, John Kenney of the Montreal Gazette and Tom Hanson. Hanson snapped this shot while Kenney shot a similar cropped version.

Oka Crisis

Over three hundred years ago the New France government granted land to Catholic Sulpician seminary in 1717. Part of the land, a Mohawk burial ground was reserved for the local Mohawk First Nation. The seminary held the land in trust for the Mohawks but would over the years take full ownership. A military confrontation in 1869 between Mohawks and missionaries over the land had to be put down by local militia. The land remained in dispute even when it was sold by the seminary to private concerns. In 1961, the city had obtained ownership of the land and built a private nine-hole golf course, the Club de golf d’Oka, on a portion of the land. When they wanted to expand the golf course the Mohawks erected barricades to stop construction. A court order ruled on the side of the city and ordered the blockade to be removed. The Mohawk’s refused and on July 11, 1990, a police fast action response team tried to drive off Mohawk activists using tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades. In the confusion, someone opened fire and a 15-minute bullet exchange ensued forcing the police to fall back, abandoning six police cruisers and a bulldozer. During the firefight, 31-year-old SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was shot in the face and died a short while later.

Taking the picture

John Kinney one of two photographers close to the blockade, the other being Hanson, remembers what happened on that day:

We were the only two people there, It was the morning of the first day of the crisis. The Mohawks had set up their blockade with the SQ vehicles they’d taken over, and this guy hopped up there on top and looked down the hill and made his defiant gesture.
It was a quick thing. Neither of us spoke to him. Through the whole summer, I always wondered who he was, but I could never identify him … He wasn’t even focused on us; most of the media were way down at the bottom of the hill and that’s where he was looking, not at us at all.

Stand off

Mohawk by John Kenney

Similar angle by John Kenney

With the police overmatched the military was called in and for the next few months, the two forces were locked in a standoff. The media attention among the Mohawks created some First Nation celebrities including a Mohawk warrior known as, Lasagna. The Oka Crisis lasted seventy-eight days before the warriors threw their guns in the fire, ceremonially burned tobacco and then walked out of the pines and tried to break out of the blockade. The federal government spent $5.3 million to purchase the section of the pines where the golf course expansion was to take place, to prevent any further development. Some of the lands were handed over to the Mohawks but the Kanesatake tribal government is still negotiating with the federal government for a larger Treaty to be signed to resolve all outstanding issues. Kanesatake First Nation leaders claim that the federal government walked away from the treaty table in 2006.

Joined again in death

In a strange twist of fate, the photographer and the Mohawk Warrior were brought together one more time in death. While playing hockey Tom Hanson collapsed and died of a heart attack on March 10, 2009. Later in the day Richard Nicholas, the man Hanson photographed, died in a three-vehicle accident near Oka on the same Highway 344 where his picture was taken. They were both 41-years-old.

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Flower Power

Buy on amazonflower power by Bernie Boston
Behind the camera: Bernie Boston
Where: One of the last big protest marches on the Pentagon
Photo Summary: 18 years old George Harris placing flowers into the rifle barrels of National Guardsman
Picture Taken: October 21, 1967

In late 1967 Bernie Boston was a reporter for the Washington Star a now-defunct newspaper. After he took this famous picture Star publishers didn’t see the value of the image and buried it the A section of their paper. Not deterred Bernie Boston sent the image out to various photo competitions which resulted in a number of awards, prizes, and international recognition.

Taking the photo

The end of the 60s saw a number of anti-Vietnam war protests. Covering one of the last big protests Bernie sat with his camera on a wall at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. While the protest neared the gates Bernie watched as a National Guardsman lieutenant marched a group of armed men into the sea of demonstrators. The squad formed a semi-circle, their guns pointed at the demonstrators.

In a 2006 interview, Bernie remembers thinking things could have got ugly when all of a sudden, “this young man appeared with flowers and proceeded . . . [to] put them down the rifle barrel,” Boston told National Public Radio. “And I was on the wall so I could see all this, and I just started shooting.”

While he knew he had a good picture the Star editors didn’t feel the same way and gave the picture minimal coverage. “The editor didn’t see the importance of the picture,” Boston said later. “We buried it … I entered it in contests, and it started winning everything and being recognized.”

Bernie Boston

A Washington, D.C. native Bernie Boston was born May 18, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. He grew up in McLean, Virginia and found his calling early when he became a photographer for his high school newspaper and yearbook. Fast forward to university when he graduated with a degree in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He followed his education by in 1955 joining the army for three years. After his military service, he worked at Dayton Daily News in Ohio in 1963 and three years later joined the staff of the Washington Star, where he remained until the paper folded in 1981. When the Star went under he found work as a staff photographer in its Washington D.C. bureau. In 1994 Boston and his wife moved to Basye, Virginia where he published and she edited the Bryce Mountain Courier.

Not a photographer that is defined by the Flower Power image Bernie would over his career shoot a number of famous people of the era including every president from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton. In 1987 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in the spot news category, for his photograph of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at an unveiling of a bronze bust of her assassinated husband.

Bernie Boston died at his home in Basye on Tuesday, January 22, 2008. His wife released a statement that he died from complications of amyloidosis, a rare disease in which abnormal proteins build up in organs and tissues. He was 74 years old. Boston is survived by his wife, an aunt and two nieces.

George Harris

The young protester who captured the nature of the 60s protest movement turned out to be an 18 years old actor, George Edgerly Harris III, from New York on his way to California. He would later reveal that he was gay and took the stage name, Hibiscus. He co-founded a far-out, psychedelic, gay-themed cross-dressing troupe called The Cockettes. His life would be captured in the 2002 film of the same name made by David Weissman. Hibiscus died an early victim of the AIDS epidemic that struck the West coast gay community.

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Tiananmen Square – Man vs Tank

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Behind the camera: Many photographers took the same shot from different angles. The most reproduced pictures is the one shown here by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press. Other photographers who captured the scene are Charlie Cole, Stuart Franklin, and a number of TV crews
Where: The street name is Cháng Ān Dà Jiē (长安大街), or ‘Great Avenue of Chang’an’ just a minute away from Tiananmen, which leads into the Forbidden City, Beijing
Photo Summary: An unknown man blocks an advancing column of Chinese Type 59 tanks
Picture Taken: June 5, 1989

Popularly known as the Tank Man, or the Unknown Rebel, this anonymous man became famous when he pictures of him standing down a column of tanks with just his shopping bag. In April 1998, the United States magazine TIME included the “Unknown Rebel” in its 100 most influential people of the 20th century. It is easily one of the most famous pictures in the world.

Video Breakdown

As shots can be heard in the background, the clip opens with a column of Chinese Type 59 tank rolling down Cháng Ān Dà Jiē (长安大街), or “Great Avenue of Chang’an” Blvd. A man, the Tank Man, wearing what appears to be a long-sleeved white dress shirt and dark pants is standing in the middle of the road. While holding his jacket in one hand and shopping bags in another, he blocks the path of the tanks. The lead tank tries to drive around him but the Tank Man blocks the tank’s path. Eventually, he jumps up on the tank and at first tries to talk with the driver and then tries to talk through the main hatch on top of the turret. He then jumps off the tank and is bundled away by people standing on the street.


PSB agents crashed through our hotel room door – Charlie Cole

Tiananmen square Jeff Widener

In 2012 did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures, this is Jeff Widener with his famous image

The protests were sparked by the death of former Secretary-General Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, a figure that many thought as unjustly persecuted by the Chinese government. The protests grew as different groups with a wide range of issues, some opposing views, came to Tiananmen Square. The protests were extensively covered by Western journalists who were allowed into Beijing to cover the Mikhail Gorbachev visit in May. The Chinese government was split on how to deal with the protesters but eventually, the hardliners seized control of the situation and on May 20, the government declared martial law and, on the night of June 3 and the early morning of June 4, army tanks and infantry from the 27th and 28th Armies of the People’s Liberation Army were sent to take control of the city. Local army units, the 38th Army, weren’t used as the military feared they were too sympathetic to the protesters. In fact, the commander of the 38th Army Xu Qinxian refused to carry out the martial law order and was relieved of his command.

In addition to the almost 300,000 military personnel (Twice as large as the American force that overthrew the Saddam regime in Iraq) that were deployed were also members of the Public Security Bureau (PSB). The PSB is China’s branch of government that handles policing, security and social order. By early morning on June 4, the protesters had been cleared from Tiananmen Square and over the next few days, the army and the PSB brutally suppressed the students and any media caught covering the crackdown.

One of the photographers, Charlie Cole, had spent the night running from police and the military. During the crackdown, he had witnessed an armored personal carrier (APC) that had run over some protesters. The outraged protesters then attacked the vehicle pulling out its drivers, killing them, and burnt the APC. While he was trying to get back to his hotel, he was attacked by PSB men, “One of the PSB ran up to me with an electric cattle prod and hit me in the side with it. Others punched and kicked at me. They ripped my photo vest off me and took all the film I had shot that evening.” He was eventually let go and more importantly they let him keep his cameras. While in his hotel he started shooting from the balcony of a photographer friend’s room, Stuart Franklin. Stuart had a room with a balcony on the 8th floor and while Charlie was shooting on the afternoon of June 5th he saw the Tank Man stand down the column of tanks. In a BBC interview he remembers:

It was an incredible thing to do, especially in light of what had just happened with the APC machine-gunners. I couldn’t really believe it, I kept shooting in anticipation of what I felt was his certain doom.
To my amazement, the lead tank stopped, then tried to move around him but the young man cut it off again. Finally the PSB grabbed him and ran away with him. Stuart and I looked at each other in somewhat disbelief at what we had just seen and photographed.
Later, Stuart left to go to Beijing University and I stayed behind to see what else might happen. Shortly after he left, PSB agents crashed through our hotel room door. Four agents swept in and assaulted me while a few others grabbed my cameras.

Terril Jones' street view of the Tank Man, taken by Terril Jones

They ripped the film from my cameras and confiscated my passport. They then forced me to write a statement that I was photographing during martial law, which unbeknown to me carried a hefty prison sentence. They then put a guard at the door.
I had hidden the roll with the tank pictures in its plastic film can in the holding tank of the toilet. [Cole had hidden the rolls because he saw that PSB officials on the rooftops had noticed them taking pictures of the incident] When they left, I retrieved it and later made my way to AP to develop and transmit it to Newsweek in New York.
Numerous inquiries have been made by various agencies and magazines trying to uncover the young man’s identity and find out what happened to him. I’ve seen a number of accounts that name him as Wang Wei Lin, but that isn’t a certainty.
Personally I think the government most likely executed him. It would have been in the government’s interest to produce him to silence the outcry from most of the world. But, they never could. People were executed at that time for far less than what he did.
I think his action captured people’s hearts everywhere, and when the moment came his character defined the moment rather than the moment defining him. He made the image, I just took the picture. I felt honored to be there.

Charlie Cole would later die of sepsis on September 5, 2019, aged 64. He had been living in Bali, Indonesia.

In 2013 Stuart Franklin did an interview with VICE where he talked about taking his famous image:

It was all very uncertain [Stuart would get the photos out of China]. The police and security people were going from room to room in my hotel, searching for journalists and confiscating films. That atmosphere was very worrying. I remember packing my film into a box of tea that was supplied in the hotel room and asking someone who was going back to Paris to take it for me. I was left in China without my film. I wasn’t worried about it once the film was out, and I didn’t mind if I lost a couple of cameras. It wasn’t easy—we were shot at, at times—but I was lucky.

When I got back from China, I went into Michael Rand’s office at the Sunday Times Magazine. He was laying out one of my photos on the cover of the magazine, but it was another of the photos from my trip —a topless guy with his arms raised. That became equally well known for a while. The “Tank Man” picture grew in importance over time, but it didn’t actually stand out far from the body of work immediately after the event.

Who is the Tank Man?

Little is publicly known of the man’s identity and or his fate. It would have been in China’s best interest that he be brought forward as proof that he wasn’t executed but the Chinese have not been able to. This could mean any number of things including, that in the confusion following the crackdown he was either killed on the streets or arrested and executed, or perhaps the PSB never identified who he was. So basically you have two schools of thought. One that he was arrested and the other that he managed to slip away.


But I think never never killed
-Chinese General Secretary Jiang Zemin

Tiananmen Square full picture Stuart Franklin

Tank Man wasn't just standing up to a few tanks, he was staring down dozens of tanks. Photo by Stuart Franklin

The arrested side believes that the people who hustled the Tankman away were PBS agents and even if they weren’t they don’t believe that the Tankman could have slipped past security.

  • Reporter Charles Cole thought quite strongly that he was executed. While shooting the pictures from the hotel he noticed many Chinese agents on the rooftops who appeared to be coordinating snatch teams on the ground. Plus he witnessed a lot of public executions put on Chinese TV for people that had done far fewer offenses.
  • Three weeks after the protest Alfred Lee of the British tabloid, Sunday Express, broke a story where he named the Tank Man, Wang Weilin (王维林), a 19-year-old student and son of a Beijing factory worker. In Alfred’s report, he wrote that Wang Weilin’s friends had seen him on with a shaved head and paraded on state television. Recalling his story, Alfred Lee remembers getting the new from his sources in China, “These contacts were very close to what was happening at Tiananmen Square at the time. I knew that once his name had come into the public domain, the Chinese authorities wouldn’t be able to do anything to him. They couldn’t execute him. It would have brought outrage from the world.” Five days after Alfred’s story the, London Evening Standard, reported their Beijing correspondent John Passmore had come across intelligence reports that Weilin had been executed. Alfred Lee’s story has never been fully excepted by journalists or government agencies. Reporters note that Alfred wasn’t working in China at the time and that other journalists who had excellent contacts, fully fluent in Chinese were never able to confirm the story. Even John Passmore denies that he reported Wang Weilin’s execution saying that it was a mistake by the Standard that his name was used.
  • Slipped Away

    The slipped away side, view the people that ran out to get him as being just ordinary people who then slipped away into the crowds.

  • Jan Wong journalist for the Canadian paper the Globe and Mail pointed to the footage of the Tank Man being pulled away from the tanks as proof the men weren’t security agents, “If you’ve ever seen security people manhandle a Chinese citizen, they’re really brutal. They twist your arm. They make you bend over. They punch you a few times. They kick you. So to me, I think he was helped to the side of the road. He wasn’t being arrested.” Jan Wong claims that the man is alive and well hiding in communist China.
  • One account has him making it to Taiwan, where he worked for the National Palace Museum but other media have never been able to track him down and the Museum denies that he works there.
  • China follows a policy of total silence when talking about the Tiananmen Square protest and the Tank Man’s fate. Officials have only spoken about it once, in a 1990 interview with Barbara Walters. Then-CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin was asked what became of the man:

    BARBARA WALTERS, ABC News: What happened to the young man?
    JIANG ZEMIN: I think this young man maybe not killed by the tank.
    BARBARA WALTERS: No, but did you arrest him? We heard he was arrested and executed.
    JIANG ZEMIN: [through interpreter] Well, I can’t confirm whether this young man you mentioned was arrested or not.
    BARBARA WALTERS: You do not know what happened to him?
    JIANG ZEMIN: But I think never never killed.
    BARBARA WALTERS: You think he was never killed.
    JIANG ZEMIN: I think never killed.
    BARBARA WALTERS: Never killed.


    No one knows for certain how many people died during the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Chinese Red Cross at first reported 2,600 killed but then under intense government pressure retracted the total. The official government body count is 241 dead, including 23 officers and soldiers, and 7,000 wounded. After the crackdown, China moved on with its economic reforms and since the protest is taboo to discuss, most young Chinese don’t even know it happened.

    Copyright info

    Copyright to this photo is managed by Magnum Tiananmen Square – Man vs Tank by W. Eugene Smith

    Tank Man by Jeff Widener was another photo managed by AP Images

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