Pitt Commemorates 1968 Day of National Mourning for Martin Luther King Jr. With April 5 Program, Photo Display

Issue Date: 
April 1, 2013

The month of April 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; the riots that erupted in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh; and the proclamation by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson calling for a Day of National Mourning to be observed three days after King’s April 4, 1968, death.

Pitt’s University Library System will recount Pittsburgh’s participation in the Sunday, April 7, 1968, Day of National Mourning with a free public program and a compelling series of black-and-white photographs taken that day by Charles Martin of Jones Mills, Pa., who enjoyed a 66-year career as a freelance photographer. Martin captured the day with his 35 mm Nikon camera as thousands of residents from around the region peacefully marched from the fire-ravaged Hill District to the Federal Building Downtown, many dressed in their Sunday best.

The program, titled “The MLK Jr. Pittsburgh March: Through the Lens of Charles Martin,” will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. April 5 in the Dick Thornburgh Room of Pitt’s Hillman Library. Speakers will include:

• Michael Dabrishus, Pitt’s assistant University librarian, who will deliver welcoming remarks;

• Laurence Glasco, a Pitt professor of history, who will put the event in historical context; and

• Charles Martin, who will describe through a PowerPoint presentation what it was like to be photographing the historic event. 

Twelve of Martin’s 189 photos from that day will be on display from April 5 through the summer on the library’s ground floor, near the elevators.

Martin says when he heard that there might be violent clashes between police and the marchers and that no traffic was being allowed into Downtown, he walked from the North Side to the Hill District to document the event. As it turned out, there were no clashes. Instead, Martin captured the participants—young and old, Black and White—marching peacefully to commemorate the life of King.

The Charles Martin Collection was donated to Pitt’s Archives Service Center earlier this year. It comprises more than 140,000 images taken for his many clients, including Alcoa, the United Way of Allegheny County, the Boy Scouts of America, and Carlow College, among many others.

Visit http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/martin.html to view images of the march.