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Charles R. Martin Photographs

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This presentation of the Charles R. Martin Photograph Collection represents one series in the collection that contains images taken on April 7, 1968. The images originate from 35mm black and white negatives and document the peace march that occurred in Pittsburgh on the National Day of Mourning three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Historical Context

Following the assassination of Dr. King, many took to the streets in protest throughout cities in the United States, including Pittsburgh. Rioters spilled into the Hill District streets on April 5, 1968 where fires were set and stores looted. In an article written by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the 40th anniversary, mention made of a curfew whereby everyone entering and leaving the Hill District was being "checked." According to Joe Trotter and Jared Day in their book, Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War II, the riots began at a meat market on Centre Avenue and spread throughout the Hill, eventually reaching other Pittsburgh neighborhoods including Homewood-Brushton, Hazlewood, Lawrenceville, and the North Side. While white-owned businesses were the target, black-owned businesses were far from safe.

The news stories of the time were awash in reports from cities where riots were having the greatest effect; little was being reported about Pittsburgh outside of local news reports. Local photographers including Charles "Teenie" Harris, Forrest "Bud" Harris, and Charles R. Martin were there to capture the emotional days as they unfolded. Anticipating violence, the National Guard and the state police were called to assist the Pittsburgh police. Men in riot gear lined the streets to maintain order, effectively creating a line between the Hill District and Downtown Pittsburgh.

Dr. King had preached for a non-violent solution to the issues that were being faced by the Black Community. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a decree calling for April 7th to be a national day of mourning in an attempt to bring some calm to the volatile country. A permit had been issued to the NAACP to conduct a peaceful march from the Hill District to the Point. Mayor Joseph Barr left the decision to revoke the permit to Public Safety Director, David W. Craig, who believed a peaceful march could take place and thus, did not revoke the permit. (Trotter and Day, 106-107). The march, which occurred on April 7, 1968 and led by NAACP President Byrd Brown and Executive Director Alma Speed Fox, included people from all walks of life, many dressed in their Sunday best having just come from church. Young, old, black, white, priests, nuns, and students gathered in peaceful solidarity.

What's in the entire collection?

The collection, which is held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh and is still being processed, documents Martin's 66-year career as a private photographer, with images dating from the 1940s to 2011. The collection contains images taken during his work with clients such as the United Way of Allegheny County, Dynamic Equipment, St. Barnabas Foundation of Gibsonia, the Boy Scouts of America, Carlow College, Vibra Tech Engineers, Alcoa and Red Valve, among others. Also included in the collection are photographs of Pittsburgh, Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, travel photographs and other personal photographs.

About Charles R. Martin

Charles "Chuck" Martin was born to a lawyer and classical singer in Beaver Falls, Pa., on July 1, 1927. He credits his uncle, an amateur photographer, for sparking both his love of photography and his future career. After graduating from Beaver Falls High School in June 1945, he joined the Navy where he served 14 months on the Lyman K. Swenson destroyer. It was during this time that he purchased his first camera, a Leica II, for $100 in Shanghai, China.

After his military service, Martin attended Dartmouth College where he majored in art and zoology, thinking that he would go into medical photography. As a student at Dartmouth, he served as president of the photography club and had some of his photographs published in the Dartmouth College Weekly Calendar. Martin returned to Beaver Falls after graduation. There he met Sally while she was still a student at Geneva College. They married in 1950 and had three children.

It wasn't until Sally took a teaching job, years later, that he was able to get into free-lance photography, after working in a variety of jobs from car salesman to owning his own real estate company. In the word's of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin's photography goal was to always try to capture "the decisive moment." His photos of the peace march serve as a testament to attaining that objective.

Martin was interviewed by Chris Moore, host of the WQED Horizons show, on November 13, 2012 where he talked about his career and what it was like to be an eyewitness at the march and capture the event as it unfolded.

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