Photo: Photographer: Jeff Widener
Our history can be defined by a few powerful photos.We searched through Pulitzer prize-winning photographs and across the web for photographs that captured history in the making.
NORTH CAROLINA—DECEMBER 17, 1903: The Wright brothers' first flight. Wilbur was running alongside the plane; Orville was flying it. No one would have believed their achievement if it hadn't been photographed.
INDIANA—AUGUST 7, 1930: Lawrence Beitler captured the lynching of two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, who were accused of raping a white girl. Thousands of copies of Beitler's photo were sold and became postcards to encourage white supremacy. This photo inspired a poem, Strange Fruit, that turned into song famously recorded by Billie Holiday.
NAGASAKI—AUGUST 9, 1945: The U.S. Air Force took this photo of a mushroom cloud caused by its atomic bomb, Fat Man. It, along with another bomb dropped on Hiroshima, caused 150,000 deaths. The public had never seen an atomic bomb's destruction before, and this picture made the world fearful of another World War.
IWO JIMA—FEBRUARY 23, 1945: Six U.S. marines raised a flag during the battle of Iwo Jima. Three of the men later died in battle, but the picture represented the end of World War II and inspired the famous memorial in Washington D.C.
VIETNAM—FEBRUARY 1, 1968: Eddie Adams snapped Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Viet Cong Captain Nguyen Van Lem. The picture turned the public against the war.
KENT STATE—1970: John Paul Filo captured this girl mourning the death of a Kent State student. Several students had been shot by an American soldier while protesting Richard Nixon's order to send troops to Cambodia. The guard was provoked when rocks were thrown at him, a chilling reminder of the Boston Massacre. 4 million students went on strike and hundreds of schools temporarily closed after the shooting.
BOSTON—JULY 22, 1975: Stanley J. Forman witnessed two women plunging from a faulty fire escape in Boston. Their apartment was on fire and it gave way when they were yelling for help. The mother died upon impact; the daughter survived. Forman's photo changed fire safety regulations in Boston.
AFGHANISTAN—1984: Steve McCurry's shot of a 12-year-old Afghan girl became one of the most popular National Geographic covers of all time, and a face for refugees.
SUDAN—1994: Kevin Carter shot this Pulitzer Prize-winner of a child crawling to a UN food camp half a mile away in Sedan. Depressed, Carter committed suicide three months after taking this picture. The image brought the Sudan tragedy to the world.
NEW YORK—SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: Richard Drew took this of a man falling (or leaping) to his death from one of the twin towers on September 11. It depicted one of the most devastating days in American history and ushered in a new era of terror and war.
ABU GHARIB PRISON—2004: Horrific pictures taken by the U.S. Army were unveiled in The New Yorker and in a 60 Minutes episode. They showed American soldiers torturing Iraq prisoners. After the images were made public, 17 American soldiers were removed from duty; 11 were convicted and dishonorably discharged. The pictures showed Americas' hypocrisy; their soldiers were as inhumane as those they were fighting in the War on Terror.
WASHINGTON, D.C—May 1, 2011: President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Admiral Mike Mullen and others were photographed getting an update on the raid that would lead to Osama bin Laden's death. The raid was successful, and a few months later, Obama announced all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year-end.
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