The J. Paul Getty Museum

Birmingham, Alabama

Object Details


Birmingham, Alabama


Robert (Bob) Adelman (American, born 1930)




Birmingham, Alabama, United States (Place Created)


May 1963


Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



17.8 × 27 cm (7 × 10 5/8 in.)


© Bob Adelman/Magnum Photos

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Object Description

This iconic and frequently published image of the Civil Rights movement captures a moment when Birmingham, Alabama Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor ordered police to use water cannons to break up a demonstration. Photojournalist Bob Adelman's framing emphasizes the results of the intense stream of water exploding from the right side of the screen onto the African-American protestors, leaving the viewer to see them literally as victims of an unseen force. The bright water contrasts with the demonstrators' dark skin and clothing and the trees to their right. To the left, two men help a young woman stagger away from the torrent.

Civil rights leaders used Birmingham as a flashpoint, knowing that city leaders were among the most steadfastly opposed to integration. On that day, other photographers captured police using attack dogs on the marchers. Images of the event depict a powerful contrast between peaceful, civil protestors and the Birmingham Public Safety officials' expression of deep-rooted prejudice. Ultimately, these events and the widespread press coverage of them helped spur a movement that led to ratification of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

- 2005

Robert (Bob) Adelman, American, born 1930, sold through Magnum Photos (New York, New York) and James Danziger (New York, New York) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005.

Pictures for the Press (September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006

Adelman, Bob and Charles Johnson. Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Struggle for Civil Rights (New York: Time Inc. Home Entertainment Books, with Bob Adelman Books, Inc., 2007), pp. 138-39. Published title: Beloved community, Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama.

Kelen, Leslie G., ed. This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement (Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), p. 135. Published title: Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource




Historical Witness, Social Messaging

Additional works of art related to the themes and topics of the curriculum.

Civil Rights Through Image and Text

Lesson in which students learn how image and text helped define the social and psychological mood of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; History–Social Science


Three/Five-Part Lesson