Photo of Black Woman at Baton Rouge Protest Goes Viral

A photo taken during protests on Saturday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following the police-related death of Alton Sterling on July 5 has gone viral on social media. It’s being called an iconic photo of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was started by Black women.

Ieshia Evans, 28, wearing a long, flowing dress, stands calmly and confidently while facing Baton Rouge police officers wearing full riot gear and approaching her swiftly.

New Orleans-based photographer Jonathan Bachman captured the popular photo while on assignment for Reuters.

“I photographed someone arguing with an officer and then I looked over my shoulder and saw her there and she had every intention of not moving,” Bachman told Buzzfeed. “She just stood there and made her stand. I was just happy to be able to capture something like that.”

When hundreds of demonstrators blocked Airline Highway, police showed up in riot gear, telling them to move to the sidewalk. Many argued with the police, while Evans silently refused to move. She was then arrested, along with more than 100 other protesters. Evans was released from jail Sunday evening, after 24 hours.

A Facebook user likened the photo to other iconic images:

On Twitter:

In a Facebook post Sunday night, Evans wrote:

Evans, who said on the site she is a licensed practical nurse and a mom, also made the following post on Monday:

Iconic Photography of Blacks in America

In 1955,Emmett Till, a Black teen, was murderedby two white men in Money, Mississippi, after he whistled at a white woman working the counter at Bryant’s Meat Market and Grocery Store. His mother,Mamie Till Bradley, allowed a public funeral and open casket to show the horrors of racism. Images of his mutilatedbodywere published in Blackmagazines and newspapers, which brought nationwide attention to the plight of Blacks in Mississippi, and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.

“American Gothic” by Gordon Parks, 1942

African American photojournalist Gordon Parks used the medium to bring about social change. Parks, who died in 2006 at the age of 93, was hired in 1948 by Life magazine, becoming its first Black photographer. In 1952, Parks and author Ralph Ellison worked together on a photo essay, “A Man Becomes Invisible,” for Life magazine. The photo series promoted Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man,” a story of a young, college-educated Black man in a racially divided society that refuses to see him as a human being.

In 1956, Life published a photo essay by Parks titled “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,” which documented the lives of an African American family, the Thorntons, living during Jim Crow segregation in Alabama.During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, in 1963, Parks’ photo essay “The March on Washington” documented the movement in a way in which most Americans had never seen it before. He also gained unprecedented access to organizations like the Nation of Islam (1963) and photographed Muhammad Ali (1970).

Parks’ photography exposed even covert racism and the struggles of Blacks in America to the mainstream.

“I felt the need to use humanity to make people become aware of how people suffered,” Parks said in an interview in 1999.

Related Story: Frederick Douglass: A Believer in the Social Power of Photography

In the 1800s, abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass believed photography had the power to transform racist representations of Blacks in the U.S., such as in newspaper illustrations. Douglass himself was photographed more than George Custer, Walt Whitman or even Abraham Lincoln.

John Stauffer, a Harvard University professor of English and American Literature, American Studies and African American Studies, is an author of “Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American.”

Stauffer told Fair360, formerly DiversityInc during an interview in February that he thinks Douglass would have championed the use of cellphone photography as a tool for social reform.

“Increasingly in America, for example, Blacks won’t leave home without a camera, usually onthe cellphone, and police are thinking twice about questioning minorities, for fear of having the resultingfilm footage go viral,” he said. “Douglass helps us [in] understanding this impulse; in fact, [he] anticipated it in his writings on photography and his portraiture.A camera, he recognized, captured a person’s essential humanity.”

Last week, in both the police-related shootings of Sterling and Philando Castile in Minnesota, it was cellphone video of the incidents that sparked outrage across the country and the protests that followed.


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