5. Migrant Mother
After the outbreak of World War I, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention, avoiding conflict while trying to broker peace. When a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans aboard, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson vowed, “America is too proud to fight” and demanded that Germany end the attacks on passenger ships. In January of 1917, Britain’s secret Royal Navy cryptanalytic group, Room 40, intercepted a German coded message to Mexico, which suggested that Mexico should declare war on the United States with the help of Germany. U.S.
President Woodrow Wilson released the information to the public to gain support for the war. He realized that a U.S. conflict was imminent, after German submarines sank numerous U.S. merchant ships.
The United States officially entered World War I on April 6, 1917. After the end of the war, the U.S. moved into the Golden Age of media, with the establishment of public radio and the first major broadcast networks. However, by the end of the 1920s, the U.S entered the Great Depression, which was the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century. The Great
Depression originated in the United States, starting with the plummet of the stock market. The depression had devastating effects in virtually every country. Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices dropped, while international trade plunged and unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25%.
Tensions quickly elevated in major settlements around the United States and this era in U.S. history is full of dark and depressing pictures.
Dorothea Lange was an influential American documentary photographer, best known for her Depression-era work. Lange’s photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography. Her best known images were taken in 1936, when she captured a set of pictures that would become known as the Migrant Mother collection. In March 1936, after picking beets in the Imperial Valley, Florence Owens Thompson and her family suffered car trouble near the city of Nipomo, California. Florence Thompson’s husband and sons took the car’s radiator to be fixed and she set up a temporary camp with her small children.
While the family waited for the men to return, Dorothea Lange approached Florence and took a collection of famous images. One of the pictures shows a close-up portrait of Florence Owens Thompson and her children. The image was published in newspapers all over the United States and has since reached near mythical status, symbolizing, if not defining, this entire era in U.S. history. It was not until the late 1970s that Thompson’s identity was discovered. She was quoted as saying “I wish she hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it. She didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did.” As one of the most powerful photographs of the Depression era, Migrant Mother reflects the victims who suffered the most in the United States during the 1930s.
4. American Soldiers Storm Normandy
In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland marking the beginning of the Second World War. In 1940, the Selective Service Act was passed in the United States. The law required that all men between the ages of 21 and 35 register with the U.S. draft board. On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor. The next day, the U.S. declared war on Japan resulting in the entry into World War II.
Over the next four years of war, 418,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in battle. On January 16, 1945, the Red Army breached the German front and entered the city of Berlin. May 8, 1945, is officially Victory in Europe Day, when the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. August 14, 1945, is Victory over Japan Day in the United States.
After the end of the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula, which was ruled by Japan since 1910, was divided along the 38th Parallel, with U.S. troops occupying the southern portion and Soviet troops occupying the north. In 1948, government officials failed to hold free elections on the Korean Peninsula and this deepened the division between the two sides. The North established a Communist government and the 38th Parallel became a political border between the two Koreas. On June 25, 1950, the conflict escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces invaded South Korea. This event marked the beginning of the Korean War (1950-1953). The U.S. came to the aid of South Korea, while China and Russia joined the communist north. The conflict ended after the threat of nuclear war was made and the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was formed, which is a 2.5 mile (4.0 km) wide buffer zone between the two Koreas. Today, the DMZ is the most heavily militarized border in the world.
A number of famous American photographs were taken during the Second World War. The three most referenced images include the Conference of the Big Three at Yalta, which shows Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Premier Josef Stalin in February of 1945. The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima is probably the most well known American photo in existence, while the picture taken of a happy couple celebrating the end of the war with a kiss in New York City is iconic. For this article, I have selected a war photo that was captured on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), as American soldiers swarmed the beaches of Normandy.
The Normandy landing was the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with over 160,000 Allied troops entering France on June 6, 1944. This famous image shows American soldiers as they leave the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat and enter the frigid waters off Normandy. At the time that the picture was taken, these men were under heavy Nazi machine gun fire. They were forced to travel through the heavy tides and deep water holes, searching for solid land. Looking at this image, you can feel the wetness in the air and smell the gunpowder that looms over the battlefield. This photograph was taken under the intense pressures of war and gives a historic glimpse into the conflict.
3. Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren made a historic ruling. He granted the children of Oliver Brown the right to attend an all white school, striking down the “separate but equal” concept that was prevalent in the United States. Warren ruled that segregation violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The decision led to the African-American Civil Rights Movement. During this time, acts of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience produced crisis situations between activists and police. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted equal access to public accommodations for everyone regardless of race, religion or national origin. The enactment of the law resulted from numerous demonstrations designed to show the hardships of segregation in America.
The United States also experienced a youth movement during the early 1960s, known as the hippy subculture. These people practiced the principle of free love, harmony with nature, communal living, world peace, artistic expression, and in many cases widespread experimentation with mind-altering substances. During this time, music grew in America like never before and Beatle Mania expanded.
Bob Dylan emerged as a lyricist. Many of the pubic demonstrations included speeches in strong opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was a conflict that lasted from 1955-1975. The war was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the U.S. and other anti-communist nations. The conflict ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Serious Steps is an award-winning image that was captured in 1962. It shows President John F.
Kennedy and former Commander-in-chief Dwight D. Eisenhower walking together. Two notable pictures that document the Vietnam War are titled Tank Commander and Dreams of Better Times, each of these images was awarded the Pulitzer or World Press honor. On May 4, 1970, four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard in the Kent State shooting. A photograph showing the lifeless body of 20-year-old Jeffrey Miller won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize. Martin Luther King Jr. was the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement.
In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, which is located in Memphis, Tennessee. While standing on the balcony of the hotel, King was fatally shot and wounded from a single gunshot to the head. After the shooting, Martin’s friends quickly rushed to his side and desperately tried to stop the bleeding. They were also pointing in the direction of an old run down hotel across the street. The moment was captured by photographer James Louw. The image has since become one of the most famous in U.S. history. It shows the fatally wounded Martin Luther King Jr. laying at the feet of his friends, while they yell for help. It is a descriptive photograph that shows what the scene was like when King was assassinated. You can see his leg propelled up against the balcony bars, with large pools of blood forming. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday, only the fourth Federal holiday to honor an individual, with the other three being in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus.
2. America Walks on the Moon
On July 20, 1969, the United States Apollo 11 space flight landed on the moon. It was the third lunar mission of NASA’s Apollo program and the vessel was crewed by Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin Jr. The event was a historic moment in United States history and represented a victory for the U.S. in the Cold War Space Race. By the early 1970s, the cost of the Vietnam War and the NASA space program increased domestic spending and accelerated inflation in America. During this time, the U.S. began to amass a federal deficit for the first time in the 20th century. In 1971, the U.S. government, under Richard Nixon, printed an excess of American currency in order to pay for the nation’s military spending and private investments. These policies shifted the United States economic status and ultimately led to an event known as the Nixon Shock. On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as the President of the United States, becoming the first and only U.S. President to step down.
A number of famous photographs were taken during the Apollo 11 space mission. The pictures of the American flag on the moon and of the first human footprint are lasting. I was going to include the photograph of the first step on the moon, but Armstrong’s leap was not documented. There is a famous picture of Buzz Aldrin jumping from the Command Module to the moon. The photograph that I have selected was taken from the Apollo 15 mission, which was the fourth flight to land on the moon. The picture gives a panorama view of the crew’s space vehicles and the American flag. In the picture, Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin can be seen giving a salute to the people of the world. It is a revealing photograph and shows the technical equipment used to travel to the moon and back. If you look closely, the moon’s surface can be viewed with human footprints scattered around. This image represents an incredible achievement in the history of the United States.
1. September 11, 2001
In 1975, Bill Gates founded Microsoft and the U.S. was launched into the age of technological advancement. In 1977, the first home personal computer, Commodore PET, was released for retail sale. By the 1990s, the Internet was beginning to take hold. The basic applications and guidelines that make the Internet possible have existed since the 1960s, but the network did not gain a public face until the 1990s. The estimated population of Internet users is 1.97 billion as of July 2010.
On August 2, 1990, the Gulf War began in the Middle East. The conflict was waged by a U.N. authorized coalition force from thirty-four nations, led by the U.S. and United Kingdom, against Iraq.
On September 11, 2001, the United States faced the biggest terrorist attack in history when 19 individuals hijacked four U.S. planes and crashed them into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring over 6,000.
On September 11, all civilian air traffic was suspended for three days. It was the first time that an unplanned air flight suspension had occurred in the United States. In response to the terrorist attacks, the U.S. and U.K. declared war on Afghanistan and invaded the country on October 7, 2001. The United States government reported that the reason for invading Afghanistan was to find Osama bin Laden and to destroy the organization of Al-Qaeda. As of 2011, the United States is still at war in Afghanistan with no current leads regarding the location of Osama bin Laden. On March 20, 2003, the United States and United Kingdom invaded and occupied the country of Iraq, starting the Iraq War. Recently, top U.S. military commanders in Iraq have said they believe all U.S. troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011. The two separate wars have become a controversial subject in the United States, especially since the economic status of the nation has greatly declined since 2008.
The most famous image to emerge from the September 11 attacks is titled Ground Zero Spirit and shows firefighters raising the American flag against a tangle of iron and debris at Ground Zero in New York City. For this article I have selected a picture that was taken by Bill Biggart. Bill Biggart was the only working photojournalist to die on 9/11. After the World Trade Centers were attacked, Bill Biggart traveled to the buildings to document the event. He had three separate cameras, one being digital. As the South Tower collapsed, Biggart snapped a famous collection of four photographs. He was killed when the North Tower came down. However, his camera bag was miraculously discovered in the wreckage. Most of his pictures were unsalvageable, but the flash card in the digital camera was saved and some photographs were retrieved. This image shows one of Biggart’s pictures as the South Tower collapsed to the ground. You can see the burning North Tower still standing, a building that would later fall, killing Biggart. In the picture, look at the destruction and large pieces of debris traveling with the slide. Bill Biggart will always be remembered for his bravery.