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Martin Luther King Jr, London, 1 September 1964 

Alan Sparrow introduces this month’s image

This photo of the American civil right leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) was taken by Daily Expressphotographer Reg Lancaster in London in September 1964, a visit during which he gave a spell-binding oration in St Paul’s Cathedral. In the following December King travelled to Oslo where he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize.   

Reg Lancaster worked for the Daily Express for 44 years. It was during a period when the Daily Express dominated the news and especially news photography. He was one of a huge staff of 64 photographers. 

Reg spent many of the years he worked for the Express based in Scotland, but in 1965 he was posted to Paris. “It was an absolutely incredible year” he says. 

The sixties were a decade of protests around the world. Protests by students in Paris led to riots, and Lancaster was there as students and riot police exchanged missiles. Reg's photographs document the events in progress and the tension between rebellious protesters and the police. Demonstrations continued in Prague for political liberalisation, and Lancaster was there as Soviet tanks rumbled in and statues fell. “It was a thrilling time to be a photojournalist” he said.

In the USA on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, his call for equality and freedom delivered to over 250,000 people before him in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, considered to be one of the most important speeches of the 20th century - though it is rarely heard because of the heavily enforced copyright protection by the King estate.  

Fifty-seven years later, on Friday August 28, 2020, tens of thousands gathered once more on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King III proclaim that Black Lives Matter, and make the same appeal or his audience to  “defend the freedoms that earlier generations worked so hard to win”.  His father died on 4th April 1968 after being shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray. 

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