These Powerful Photos From Black History Define America

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed." —Booker T. Washington

Smith Collection / Getty Images

A double ambrotype portrait of Albro Lyons Sr. and Mary Joseph Lyons from the 19th century. The Lyonses owned and operated a home for black seamen, which also served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Albro Lyons and his family were attacked and forced to flee New York City due to racially motivated violence during the Draft Riots prior to the start of the American Civil War.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Harriet Tubman, on the far left holding a pan, poses with a group of people whom she helped escape from slavery in the late 19th century.

Historical / Getty Images

The 107th US Colored Infantry stand guard during the Civil War, circa 1865.

Library Of Congress / Getty Images

Educator and reformer Booker T. Washington talks to a crowd at the dedication of a Mississippi cotton seed mill in 1899.

Smith Collection / Getty Images

Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C.J. Walker, drives her new car as the first woman to become a self-made millionaire in the United States, 1911.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Botanist George Washington Carver works in his greenhouse in this undated photograph.

Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

The Chicago Union Giants, the top black baseball team in the early 20th century, pose for a group portrait at a Chicago ballpark, 1905.


The medalists in the long jump competition salute from the victory stand at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin on Aug. 8, 1936. From left, Japan's Naoto Tajima (bronze); American Jesse Owens (gold), who set an Olympic record in the event and offers an American-style salute with his hand to his forehead; and Germany's Luz Long (silver) giving a Nazi salute.

Hansel Mieth / Getty Images

Pioneering sculptor Augusta Savage works on a piece in her Harlem studio in 1938.

Afro Newspaper / Getty Images

Members of the Women's Army Corps pose for a group photo during World War II in 1940.

New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

Tennis ace Althea Gibson blows kisses to a cheering New York City crowd during a 1957 parade in her honor. Born in South Carolina in 1927, Gibson became the first black American to win a Grand Slam tournament, the French Open in 1956. She went on to win Wimbledon and the US Championship at Forest Hills.

Yale Joel / Getty Images

Bathed in red light, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald performs at Mr. Kelly's nightclub in Chicago, 1958.


Novelist James Baldwin jots down some notes in his New York apartment, 1963.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Elizabeth Eckford of what became known as "The Little Rock Nine" is followed and threatened by an angry white mob on her way to class, as one of the first black students to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957.

Grey Villet / Getty Images

American civil rights leader and journalist Daisy Bates looks out through her living room window after it was broken by white agitators in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, after the Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal on the city bus system in 1956. Parks was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat in the front of a bus in Montgomery, which set off a successful boycott of the city buses.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X draws various reactions from the audience as he restates his theme of complete separation between white and black Americans in 1963.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali challenges Sonny Liston to get up during their title fight on May 25, 1965. Ali knocked Liston out in one minute in the first round during their bout at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston, Maine.

New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

A group of black protesters are sprayed with water cannons in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 4, 1963.

Francis Miller / Getty Images

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a huge crowd gathered on the Mall in Washington, DC, on Aug. 28, 1963.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archive

National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis as civil rights marchers pass by on March 29, 1968. It was the third consecutive march held by the group in three days. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had left town after the first march, would soon return and be assassinated.

Joseph Louw / Getty Images

Civil rights leader Andrew Young, left, and others at the Lorraine motel point in the direction of the shooter after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Coretta Scott King stands behind a podium at a rally calling for peace in Vietnam in New York's Central Park, April 27, 1968.

David Fenton / Getty Images

A group of Black Panther Party members demonstrate outside a New York City courthouse on April 11, 1969.

Anonymous / AP

American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. The move was a symbolic protest against racism in the United States. Smith, the gold medalist, and Carlos, who took bronze, were subsequently suspended from their team for their actions.

David Redfern / Redferns

Nina Simone performs on stage at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 4, 1968, in Newport, Rhode Island.

Michael Ochs Archives

Smokey Robinson and a friend pose for a photo outside of a snowy Hitsville U.S.A., the original Motown headquarters in Detroit, 1967.

David Redfern / Redferns

Jimi Hendrix performs at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Feb. 24, 1969.

Yale Joel / Getty Images

Models wear a selection of designs by the black-owned and operated New Breed fashion boutique in New York City, 1968. The boutique, which opened in 1967, introduced the dashiki, as well as other African-influenced garments, to the fashion world.

David Fenton / Getty Images

A group of women march under a "women's liberation" banner and in support of the Black Panther Party in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1969.

John D. Kisch / Getty Images

Director and photographer Gordon Parks on the set of the film The Learning Tree in 1969.

Jim Britt / Getty Images

Singer Marvin Gaye records a piano track in the studio, circa 1974.

Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

Mathematician Mary Jackson, the first black woman engineer at NASA, poses for a photo at the NASA Langley Research Center on Jan. 7, 1980, in Hampton, Virginia.

Lee Jaffe / Getty Images

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat works on a painting while on a trip to St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1983.

Dave Hogan / Getty Images

From left: Jam Master Jay, Darryl McDaniels, and Joseph Simmons of the hip-hop group Run-DMC pose for a photograph at the Montreux Pop Festival in Switzerland, 1988.

Russell Cheyne / Getty Images

Florence Griffith Joyner celebrates after winning gold in the women's 100-meter final event during the XXIV Summer Olympic Games on Sept. 25, 1988, in Seoul, South Korea.

Walter Iooss Jr. / Getty Images

Michael Jordan signs autographs with fans after a game against the Detroit Pistons in Detroit, 1987.

Michael Zagaris / Getty Images

Whitney Houston sings the national anthem during the pregame show at Super Bowl XXV on Jan. 27, 1991.

Steve Granitz / WireImage

Michael Jackson performs at the Super Bowl XXVII halftime show on Jan. 31, 1993, in Pasadena, California.

Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Serena Williams kisses her trophy after defeating Martina Hingis of Switzerland in the US Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, on Sep. 11, 1999.

Sgranitz / WireImage

Lauryn Hill poses with her five Grammys for her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards in 1999.

Getty Images

Halle Berry accepts the award for Best Actress for her performance in the film Monster's Ball, during the 74th Annual Academy Awards on March 24, 2002.

Peter Kramer / Getty Images

Models (from left) Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Gisele Bündchen, Adriana Lima, Selita Ebanks, and Alessandra Ambrosio pose on the runway at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on Nov. 9, 2005, in New York City.

Michelly Rall / Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey poses with graduates of the inaugural class of 2011 at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on Jan. 14, 2012, in Henley on Klip, South Africa.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Beyoncé performs at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2017.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance together during the Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball on Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in for his second term of office earlier in the day.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Tear gas engulfs a protester in Ferguson, Missouri, after a demonstration over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 17, 2014.

Daniel Leal-olivas / AFP / Getty Images

Demonstrators from the Black Lives Matter movement march through central London on July 10, 2016, during a demonstration against the killing of black men by police in the US. Police arrested scores of people in demonstrations that evening in several US cities, as racial tensions simmer over the killing of black men by police.

Tim Sloan / AFP / Getty Images

President Barack Obama kisses celebrated author and and civil rights activist Maya Angelou after presenting her with the 2010 Medal of Freedom on Feb. 15, 2011, at the White House.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A man visits the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on Jan. 16, 2017, in Washington, DC.