- This is a book about a time, a people and a cause. It is a passionate chronicle of one of the epic undertakings in American history, the struggle during the second half of the twentieth century for civil rights. It is a story about a nation fighting to make itself whole. Bob Adelman witnessed that fight and recorded it with his camera. This is his testament.
Growing up, Adelman knew that what was most un-American about America was its mistreatment of blacks. Stirred by the heroic students whose sit-ins were breaking the shackles of segregation, he felt called to join and lend his skills as a photographer to the cause. The Movement became his mission.
Adelman was there: in Birmingham, in Selma, in Washington. He was by Martin Luther King Jr.’s side, at Malcolm X’s speeches and funeral, in the trenches and in the marches. He was there, as well, in the Bed Stuy ghetto, on the streets of Newark during the riots, in Harlem schools, on Beale Street in Memphis, in the plantation fields and at the quilting bee in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. He had a great calling and now looks back with this stirring book.
Mine Eyes Have Seen vividly tells what life was like, why change was needed and how change was effected, sometimes in the face of violence.
Adelman’s commentary and reminiscences further illuminate his stunning documentary photography and portraiture. Essays by the National Book Award-winning novelist Charles Johnson explain why this man’s photographs constitute a vital, definitive record of the quest for equality. “With compassion and courage since taking photos in the Jim Crow South often put his own life at risk Bob Adelman conjured the humanity, grace and dignity of his subjects,” writes Johnson. “That quotidian humanity is everywhere evident in Mine Eyes Have Seen.”
Through his eyes, the Civil Rights Movement is presented as such a human story. To visit these pages is to be there. Bob Adelman’s view was unique and uniquely informed. His subjects knew which side he was on. And he stayed the course. He was there in the 1950s as the struggle was beginning and still present in 1998 when the last of these photographs was taken, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama shaking
hands with Prince Arnold, the black sheriff of Wilcox County.
Some of these iconic images seem like small miracles. Mine Eyes Have Seen is Adelman’s testament to a time, a people and a cause that he believed in and believes in still.