Narrator: On September 15, 1963, a group of Ku Klux Klansman planted TNT under the steps of a church in Birmingham, Alabama. The resulting explosion killed four young girls, and injured twenty-two others. In this photograph, we see crowds at the girls’ funeral procession. 

Todd Gitlin: There’s a sense here, I mean what I love about those expressions, is that people are quizzical. What is going on here?

Narrator: Todd Gitlin is a Professor at the Columbia Journalism School. 

Todd Gitlin: What is going on? What IS this? So anxiety and apprehension are the definitive reactions, and you feel that too. You feel, what’s going on here? It demands of you that you stop. You just about feel, this is about to be a turning point. Which it was. 

Today we, look, we’ve seen lots of pictures of exploded buildings. But at the time—that it was a church, that it was little girls, that it was in the middle of ordinary life, it sort of encapsulated the extraordinary time we were living in. It still does, to me, when I look at these images.  

 

Danny Lyon (b. 1942), Crowds along the Funeral Route, Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Gelatin silver print. Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York