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Photographer, Activist Remember Civil Rights Standoff In Hill District

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

CRAWLEY Dave Crawley
Dave Crawley joined KDKA in April of 1988 where he reports on the...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of a historic civil rights standoff in the Hill District.

Now, photographs of tense moments following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King have recently come to light.

“The corner was named Freedom Corner a long time ago,” Alma Speed Fox, a civil rights activist, said.

Fox and photographer, Chuck Martin, returned to the corner of Crawford and Centre today, where Martin captured images of a standoff three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

As executive director of the Pittsburgh NAACP, Fox had permits for a peaceful demonstration.

“In the background, the Hill District was on fire,” said Fox. “The riots had started, the people were burning, and had they allowed us to just proceed with our march, it would have been great. But the confrontation took place right here, on this corner.”

“Blocking off the whole intersection was a cordon of policemen,” Martin added. “Helmets, black leather jackets, billy clubs.”

Martin began snapping photographs.

“I had two Nikons and pockets full of film,” Martin said.

Milestone moments in Pittsburgh civil rights history.

“When people moved toward the police there was some confrontation,” he said.

Demonstration leaders worked with security chief, David Craig, to defuse a tinder box. Moments captured in Martin’s photographs.

“They show the moments of jubilation, when everybody agrees we want to march, and ok, we got permission, we’re going,” Martin, a freelance photographer, said.

News media was interested only in images of confrontation. So, he tucked his photos away for nearly 45 years before donating them to the University of Pittsburgh film archives.

For Fox, those pictures bring it back.

“It didn’t start out peaceful, but it ended up peaceful,” she said.

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