Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom
Photographs by Lee Friedlander
Contributions by Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins
"On May 17, 1957, Lee Friedlander hadn't yet turned twenty-three. But the attentive pictures he made that day pass down to us now the grace and noble determination of the people who made the pilgrimage. For one and all, not a bad day's work."
“Memory can be ephemeral and milestones often fade. Lee Friedlander’s photographs starkly and vividly capture the massive multigenerational and interracial, crowd of men and women who answered the call to join in a Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. on May 17, 1957. This extraordinary photographic record serves to indelibly etch this Pilgrimage onto the fabric of the mind.”
–Mildred Bond Roxborough, Special Assistant, NAACP
"This is the most morally arousing book I have seen in a long time. Lee Friedlander's humble and humane pictures are an eloquent record of a democracy bestirred. They show the victims of American society rescuing the honor of American society. I wish that Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom were not so urgently relevant to the racial circumstances of our own day—but alas, it is."
On May 17, 1957, through the generosity of Bayard Rustin, Lee Friedlander was given full access to photograph the participants of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C. This extraordinary event, organized by Mr. Rustin, as well as A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., brought together many of the great thinkers and leaders of the period, and was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
Friedlander's photographs depict the famous individuals at the event—Mahalia Jackson, Ruby Dee, and Harry Belafonte among many other luminaries of the African-American community—but they also pay particular attention to the 25,000 men, women and children who gathered to give voice and energy to the ideas embattled by the movement.
The 58 previously unpublished photographs are among Friedlander’s earliest work. Also included in this publication is the typescript of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Give Us the Ballot” speech and additional ephemera from the march produced in facsimile."Keep moving amid every obstacle; keep moving amid every mounting of opposition. If you will do this with dignity -- when the history books are written in future years the historians will have to look back and say, there lived a great people, a people with 'fleecy locks and black complexion' who injected a new dimension of love in the veins of civilization, a people who stood up with dignity and honor and saved Western civilization in her darkest hour."
—Martin Luther King, Jr. excerpt from “Give Us the Ballot” Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. May 17, 1957. 978-0-87130-071-3