“Ultimately photography is about who you are,” said Leonard Freed, “it’s the seeking of truth in relation to yourself.” Born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class parents, Freed began his career as a graphic designer and learned photography on an early trip to Europe. He became more interested in the medium after studying with Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. After showing his early photographs of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews to Life magazine, he was introduced to Robert Capa, a founder of the Magnum photographers’ cooperative, which Freed would later join.

In 1956 Freed based himself in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and traveled widely throughout Europe. In 1961 he traveled to Berlin, Germany, to photograph the newly erected Berlin Wall and took a now famous photograph of an African American soldier standing alone in front of the wall. The irony of this American soldier ready to defend his country while his own rights at home were challenged resonated with Freed, and compelled him to return to the United States to document the civil rights struggle.

He arrived with his family just before the March on Washington and photographed the events of the day. Freed’s photographs that captured the explosive period from 1963 until 1965 were published in the now classic Black in White America (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1969; Los Angeles: J. P. Getty Museum, 2010), which sold 60,000 copies in its first printing. Recently published, This is the Day: The March on Washington (Los Angeles: J. P. Getty Museum, 2013) posthumously surveys his photographs of the march.

Leonard Freed. [Marchers listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I have a dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed, 2013. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (017.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Marchers joining hands in front of the Lincoln Memorial], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Group of men talking], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (014.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Iowa sign in Reflecting Pool], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (015.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Couple singing], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Couple singing], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Priest talking with man after the March], August, 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Marchers seated beside the Reflecting Pool], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (019.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Young marchers on the grounds of the Washington Monument], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print, printed 2013. Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (018.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed. [Grounds of the Mall after the March], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print (printed 2013). Gift of Brigitte Freed. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.00.00)
© Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos

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