The collection mainly depicts some aspects of the civil rights, labor and social movements in the United States during the twentieth century, mostly from the 1940s to 1960s. The collection consists of candid shots and views of picketers, marchers, sit-ins, public gatherings, organizational meetings, mobs, confrontations between law enforcement personnel and civilians, and some destruction of property. Depictions of Freedom Riders, some better known civil rights marches, and activities in other contries are limited.
The civil rights series depicts the activities of civil rights advocates, which include marches, picket lines, sit-ins, and public gatherings, mainly from the 1940s to the 1960s. Individuals and groups are shown protesting against Jim Crow and other discriminatory practices in employment, business, housing, education, and the military, as well as opposing the lynching of African Americans. Some anti-integration demonstrators are also depicted. Noteworthy here are candid shots and views of the 20th Anniversary March on Washington (1983); some views of the Silent Protest Parade in New York (1917), the March on Washington (1963) and the Selma-Montgomery March (1965); some views of Freedom Riders activies (1961) and lunch counter sit-ins (1960) in the American South; and candid shots of N.A.A.C.P. picketers outside the Stork Club, in New York, protesting the club's ill-treatment of Josephine Baker (1951).
The labor series consists mainly of candid shots and views of striking employees and labor union activists picketing businesses, company offices and warehouses, mostly during the 1940s to the 1960s. Also depicted are some views of union organizational gatherings, pickets supporting pro-labor legislation, and labor marchers supporting consumer boycotts. The majority of events depicted occur in New York City.
The riot and civil disobedience series, mainly depicting the 1960s, consists of views of law enforcement officials either confronting or arresting rioters and demonstrators; opposition groups confronting each other; injured African Americans either surrounded by mobs or being escorted away by police; and ruins of riot-damaged buildings. Some views of post-riot security details and public street gatherings are included. Also depicted are views of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race riots (1921) and the "Police Riots" in Atlanta, Georgia (1970s).
The miscellaneous series depicts views and candid shots of picketers, marchers and rallies representing various causes, mainly during the 1930s to 1940s and the 1960s. Included are views of Harlem marchers attending a support rally for Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (ca. 1966); views of demonstrators protesting the showing of the films "The Birth of a Nation" (1915 and 1947) and "Song of the South" (1946); some views of marchers protesting South Africa's policy of apartheid (1946, 1960 and 1980); and some views of the Bonus Veterans March from Washington, D.C. to Johnstown, Pennsylvania (1932).