A few years before his death, I interviewed Flip Schulke. Schulke took more than 11,000 shots of Dr. King and the civil rights movement. In a world where CNN had yet to be invented and video was very basic, his photographs took people into the changing social landscape of America.
As a journalist, Schulke was committed to objectively reporting the events he witnessed. But a a couple of times he felt compelled to bend the rules. He told me both involved King’s I Have a Dream speech.
One happened early that day. While taking pictures of people arriving for the event, Schulke saw a bus pull up. As the crowd came off, they asked him which direction they should take to get to the Lincoln Memorial. Schulke said in that moment, he made a decision. He pointed the group down a street that would lend itself to the best photograph even though that wasn’t necessarily the fastest route. He wanted the shot that could capture the moment in history.
During the speech, he took an important photo of Dr. King at the podium. King is in the background and prominently in the foreground is an American flag. Schulke said the framing was no accident. At the time, he told me, some of King’s detractors were trying to weaken his impact on our country by calling him a communist.
This was a big deal back then and Schulke made the split second decision to associate King with the flag, ending the questioning of his patriotism.