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Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 Birmingham Campaign as Image Event

From: Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Volume 10, Number 1, Spring 2007
pp. 1-25 | 10.1353/rap.2007.0023

Abstract

Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 Birmingham campaign was an exercise in cross-racial vision. Using what Kevin DeLuca has defined as the "image event" as a mode of public address, King targeted the conscience of white moderates by making visible the reality of racial injustice. Through a close analysis of both Charles Moore's Life photographs of fire hoses and police dogs turned against black demonstrators and the effects of their international circulation, I argue that rhetorical critics cannot account for King's success in arousing the conscience of white moderates through an examination of his oral and written address alone; they must take into account King's mastery of visual communication.