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Guide to the Bob Adelman Photographs
1960s-1980s
 PR 340

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 16, 2017 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Adelman, Bob
Title: Bob Adelman photographs
Dates: 1960s-1980s
Abstract: Bob Adelman (1930-2016) was an American photographer known for his images of the Civil Rights Movement; this collection holds about 50 of these civil rights-related photographs. Overall, the collection includes about 540 black and white prints of Adelman's work. Most of the photographs depict 1970s urban street life in New York City, especially Harlem, the Bowery and 14th Street in Manhattan and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, as well as Newark, NJ.
Quantity: 2.5 Linear feet in two document boxes and two flat boxes
Call Phrase: PR 340

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Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Melvin "Bob" Adelman (1930-2016) was an American photographer known for his images of the Civil Rights Movement. A New York City native, Adelman was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1951 and received his M.A. in 1953 from Columbia. He volunteered as a photographer in the early 1960s for the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), opening him to opportunities for documenting the Civil Rights Movement on both the local and national levels. Adelman's documentary interests ranged beyond civil rights of the 1960s to include race relations and social concerns more broadly, themes which are reflected in this collection.

(Sources for the above note include Adelman's obituary in the New York Times; his Wikipedia entry; and the announcement that the Library of Congress had received a major donation of Adelman's work in 2017.

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Scope and Contents Note

The collection includes about 540 black and white photographs taken by Bob Adelman. Most of the photographs depict 1970s urban street life in New York City, especially Harlem, the Bowery and 14th Street in Manhattan and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. There are many photographs that focus on particular themes within the urban setting, including the fallout from a New York City black-out, the proximity of black and white residents in Newark, NJ, and storefront destruction in Newark, NJ, resulting from the 1967 riots. African-Americans figure prominently in these photographs, though not exclusively.

About 50 of the photographs concern civil rights activism of the early 1960s. These photos range from nationally-recognized figures, especially Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., to anonymous activists, and from events of national import, such as the 1963 March on Washington and protests in Selma and Birmingham, Alabama, to protests against discrimination in Brooklyn.

Some of the photographs focus on particular individuals or personalities, including the television personality David Frost (1939-2013), the writer Michael Harrington (1928-1989), Brooklyn "Super Cops" Dave Greenberg and Bob Hantz, and various born again Christians.

Most of the photographs are undated and this is reflected in the container list. Many of the photographs have a copyright stamp with a date of 1978 or 1979, and this is included in the container list when it appears, but in some cases the photograph may have been taken earlier.

The number of photographs in a particular folder is noted in the container list in (parentheses).

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged by subject, with related photographs kept together as presented by the donor. The subject title was generally derived from the captions on some of the photographs. The photographs are also boxed by size: Boxes 1 and 2 hold 8 x 11 (some smaller), Box 3 holds 14 x 11; Box 4 holds 20 x 16.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Adelman, Bob -- Pictorial works
  • Frost, David, 1939-2013 -- Photographs
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 -- Photographs
  • Michael Harrington, 1928-1989 -- Photographs
  • X, Malcolm, 1925-1965 -- Photographs

Document Type

  • Black-and-white photographs

Subject Topics

  • African Americans--Civil rights
  • Police--New York (State)--New York--Pictorial works.
  • Street life -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Urban African Americans--New York (State)--New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Bowery (New York, N.Y.: Street)
  • Fourteenth Street (Manhattan, New York, N.Y.)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
  • Newark, N.J.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers by appointment only.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. See guidelines in Print Room for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from: Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270. Fax: (212) 579-8794.

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as Bob Adelman Photographs, PR 340, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Credit line: Anonymous.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

Gift of an anonymous donor, December 2016.

Processing Information Note

The collection was processed by archivist Larry Weimer in October 2017. Volunteer Alison Barr prepared the container list.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Coney Island (7)
1976, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Copague Motel [Copiague?] (9)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes mostly interior images of the living quarters of an African-American family.

undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Born Again Christians (10)

Scope and Contents note

Includes, among others, Walter Hoving in two photographs and a member of Cops for Christ.

1978, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Boring N.Y. (6)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes images of bored people or "boring" settings, with whimsical outlook, such as the front entrance to the Broadway musical "Oh! Calcutta!"

1979, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Bowery (1 of 2 folders) (41)

Scope and Contents note

Photographs for magazine piece, including among others: architect of 329 Bowery and wife, traffic on Bowery, artist Tom Wesselman, Tin Palace, Bowery Residents Committee, Amato Opera, WPA, Social Services Building, Bowery "derelicts", also includes photograph of "Street Junkie 8th Avenue 8/10/77" and Dave Healey photograph of "Alcoholics; Bowery NY City Spring 1972"

1972, 1977, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Bowery (2 of 2 folders) (6)
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Blackout (1 of 2 folders) (7)

Scope and Contents note

Some photographs are noted on back as having been taken in the Brunswick [Bushwick?] section of Brooklyn, post looting 8/16 or post-rioting.

1978, 1979, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Blackout (2 of 2 folders) (3)
[1978]
Box: 1 Folder : New York City Housing Authority (?) (1 of 2 folders) (36)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes uncaptioned and undated photographs of people of various ages, races, ethnicities, gender, and walks of life, including children in playgrounds (Brooklyn Bridge in background), elderly playing Bingo, city planning staff (?), facilities maintenance staff (?), payment windows, residents in their rooms, etc. One somewhat outlier is a street scene of men playing dominoes in Spanish Harlem (114th St.).

undated
Box: 3 Folder : 3 New York City Housing Authority (?) (2 of 2 folders) (1)

Scope and Contents Note

Photograph is captioned "Housing. NYC Poor" and shows an African-American resident and the poor condition of her bathroom.

undated
Box: 1 Folder : 8 New York Police Department (1 of 2 folders) (34)

Scope and Contents note

Many of the photographs are of Dave Greenberg and Bob Hantz known in Bedford-Stuyvesant as "Batman & Robin" from book Super Cops by L.H. Whittemore

circa 1973
Box: 3 Folder : 4 New York Police Department (2 of 2 folders) (2)
circa 1973
Box: 1 Folder : 9 David Frost (13)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes Frost working at his Smith-Corona typewriter, in discussions over meals, in production meetings, and in the studio.

undated
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Michael Harrington (21)

Scope and Contents note

Includes Harrington speaking in public settings (campuses, classrooms, at a podium in front of a Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee banner) and to individuals, at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and other settings. One photograph includes wife (Stephanie Gervis, writer for Village Voice) and family.

circa 1976-1986, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 11-12 14th Street (2 folders) (95)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes photographs of storefronts (Hammer's restaurant, Star Sewing Machine Co., most unnamed), marquees (Jefferson Theatre), buildings (Consolidated Edison), street performers, people working on 14th Street (vendors, bakers, meatpackers, newstands, women by peep shows, locksmiths, boxer in gym), band and table setting at Luchow's(?) restaurant, and street life in general.

1983, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Newark (NJ) Residents (1 of 2 folders) (9)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes photographs of both white and black residents of Newark. Images of white residents are at least in part from Newark's North Ward and its Italian-American population. Includes celebrating high school seniors (Class of 1972) and students at an entrance to Barringer High School.

1972, 1978, 1979, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Newark (NJ) Residents (2 of 2 folders) (6)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes a photograph of the storefront of Melograno's Italian Bakery.

undated
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Newark Post Riot (12)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes images of destroyed storefronts, littered streets, and residents. Two photographs include military personnel and a State Police car, with rifles and bayonets.

1967?
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Harlem (1 of 2 folders) (37)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes street level views of buildings (Apollo marquee, Lenox Terrace, Metropolitan Baptist Church, 2937 8th Ave.), an abandoned building used by children as the "Funky Bridge Clubhouse," and scenes of street life.

1979, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Harlem (2 of 2 folders) (2)

Scope and Contents Note

Includes photographs of "dope drops" at 126th Street & 8th Ave. and at 128th Street and 8th Ave. (Frederick Douglass Blvd.).

1973, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Bedford-Stuyvesant (1 of 2 folders) (61)

Scope and Contents note

Photographs of townhouse restoration, $11 million IBM plant near completion, Lerner Shops, storefronts, church fronts (West Baptist, St. Mary Evangelical Christian), townhouse rows, residents on porches, and general street life.

1978, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Bedford-Stuyvesant (2 of 2 folders) (16)

Scope and Contents note

Folder includes photograph of Harlem street corner (119th & 7th Avenue 8/8/77)

1963, 1978, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Civil Rights (1 of 3 folders) (28)

Scope and Contents note

Includes, among others, Malcolm X, March on Washington, Freedom Riders, Martin Luther King, Jr., waterhoses used on protesters, funeral of Malcolm X, protests by Brooklyn CORE against discrimination at Midwood Homes.

1960s, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Civil Rights (2 of 3 folders) (18)

Scope and Contents note

Includes, among others, Mary, a Freedom Rider; CORE (Brooklyn?) protest at White Castle; water hoses; Selma; Birmingham; March on Washington, Malcolm X; street protests.

1960s, 1979, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Civil Rights (3 of 3 folders) (7)

Scope and Contents note

Includes "The Rev. Joe Carter, expecting a visit from the Ku Klux Klan after he dared to register to vote, stood guard on his front porch. West Feliciana Parish, La. 1964" (caption from the image as used in a New York Times on-line "Lens" article of 21 March 2016); water hoses used on protesters; Wilcox County candidate poster; Malcolm X; and funeral of Malcolm X.

1960s, undated

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