TIME photography

The Best of LIFE: 37 Years in Pictures

A selection of photos from LIFE magazine's storied archives: a photo a year from four decades of unparalleled excellence

Over several decades spanning the heart of the 20th century, one American magazine ― calling itself, plainly and boldly, LIFE ― published an astonishing number of the most memorable photographs ever made. Driven by the certainty that the art of photojournalism could tell stories and move people in ways that traditional reporting simply could not, LIFE pursued a grand vision, articulated by the magazine’s co-founder, Henry Luce, that not only acknowledged the primacy of the picture, but enshrined it.

“To see life,” Luce wrote in a now-famous 1936 mission statement, delineating both his new venture’s workmanlike method and its lofty aims. “To see the world; to eyewitness great events . . . to see and be amazed.”

The roster of talent, meanwhile, associated with Luce’s audacious publishing gamble is, in a word, staggering: W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Andreas Feininger, John Loengard, Gordon Parks, John Dominis, Hansel Mieth, Grey Villet, David Douglas Duncan, Paul Schutzer, Ralph Morse, Michael Rougier, Eliot Elisofon, Nina Leen, Larry Burrows, Gjon Mili and dozens of other groundbreaking photojournalists not only shot for LIFE, but were on staff at the magazine.

“In the course of a week,” Luce noted in 1936, “the U.S. citizen sees many pictures. He may see travel pictures in travel magazines, art pictures in art digests, cinema pictures in cinemagazines, scientific pictures in scientific journals. But nowhere can he see the cream of all the world’s pictures brought together for him to enjoy and study in one sitting.”

The cream of all the world’s pictures. A nervy assertion ― but an assertion repeatedly affirmed by LIFE’s tireless, innovative photographers and the work they produced, issue by issue, week after week, year upon year. World war and peaceful revolutions; Hollywood icons and history-shaping villains; the Space Race and civil rights; Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea published ― in its entirety ― in one issue, and a breathless cover story on a now-long-forgotten Hollywood ingénue in the next: however momentous the event, however legendary, notorious or simply of-the-moment the person, LIFE was there.

Today, the breathtaking pictures they took live here, on LIFE.com. Resurrected through trailblazing photo essays, lighthearted features, and previously unpublished photographs of the century’s leading figures and most pivotal, meaningful moments, Henry Luce’s vision (to see life, to eyewitness great events, to see and be amazed) remains as relevant and thrilling today as it was 75 years ago.

This gallery ― featuring one magnificent image a year from 1936, when the magazine premiered, to 1972, when LIFE ceased publishing as a weekly ― serves as an introduction to, and a celebration of, the treasures of a storied archive: a tightly focused glimpse into the breadth and excellence of one publication’s iconic photography.

TIME Crime

Protesters Arrested in Ferguson as Grand Jury Nears Its Decision

It marked the first such arrests in about a week.

Several people were arrested at a protest in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday night calling for the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teen in August to be charged by a grand jury.

The protesters tried to block a street outside the city police station during a demonstration that drew dozens of people in sub-freezing temperatures, Reuters reports. The arrests were the first in a week, and came amid heightened security as the grand jury nears its decision after some three months of deliberating.

Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday, in anticipation of the public response to the grand jury decision about whether Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the August 9 killing of Michael Brown.

[Reuters]

TIME Civil Rights

FBI Letter to Martin Luther King Jr Reveals Ugly Truths From Hoover’s Era

MARTIN LUTHER KING A PARIS 1965
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964
"First person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence"
Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

MLK is depicted as evil and a fraud in the letter that urges the civil rights icon to commit suicide

A scathing letter sent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Civil Rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been uncovered, pulling back the curtain on J. Edgar Hoover’s efforts to discredit the leader as his popularity grew.

In the anonymous letter, published for the first time in the New York Times Wednesday, the author refers to the Nobel Peace Prize recipient as “evil,” a “fraud,” and a “dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.” The author threatens to expose King as an adulterer and in the end flat-out suggests that the leader commit suicide.

One passage reads: “No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself in all your dirt, filth, evil, and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time. I repeat—no person can argue successfully against facts. You are finished.”

The FBI under Hoover devoted a great deal of attention to Dr. King, whom Hoover considered a threat to national security, Vox reports. The letter reportedly came to be after Hoover failed to prove King was a Communist, which he could have used to disgrace him. Yale professor of American History Beverly Gage wrote in the New York Times, the letter is “the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok.”

Read the full letter at the New York Times.

TIME Science

Looking to Science for Answers About Race

Theodosius Dobzhansky
Theodosius Dobzhansky, circa 1960s Pictorial Parade / Getty Images

How a forgotten scientist changed the way we talk about race

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Americans are constantly reminded of the contradictions concerning the meaning and impact of race.

We can as a nation claim progress as it pertains to race. After all, a majority of American voters have twice elected President Barack Obama to the most powerful office in the world.

Yet, for as much progress as we have made there is as much work to be done. The recent killings by police of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York remind us how race shapes the often hostile relationship between law enforcement and some communities. Racist comments by several NBA owners remind us that some remain polluted by the foolish belief in the fundamental superiority and inferiority of different groups. Skin color still limits economic and other opportunities. Take home loans: over the past few years the U.S. Justice Department settled cases with several banks for having steered non-whites into expensive subprime loans despite having qualified for standard mortgages.

Race matters, of course, and so too does the meaning we give it. We have often turned to science for that meaning—to justify beliefs and to provide a vocabulary for explaining human differences. But science too struggles with understanding race.

When we talk about the scientific meaning of race today we do so largely because of the work of the distinguished evolutionary biologist Theodosious Dobzhansky, who spent most of his career at Columbia University. Though today forgotten outside of scientific circles, Dobzhansky was almost single-handedly responsible for reshaping the race concept in the 20th century through his classic book, Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937).

Until Dobzhansky’s work appeared, race was defined largely in typological terms, meaning that one member of a race was thought to share the same traits with other members of that race. This kind of thinking helped perpetuate racist actions and stereotypes. For example, from 1932-1972 the infamous Tuskegee Study followed the natural course of syphilis in African American men because it was mistakenly believed that syphilis was a different disease in blacks than it was in whites.

Although Dobzhansky was unaware of the Tuskegee Study at that time, he did understand that such classifications were bad science. Dobzhansky, through new techniques in population genetics and evolutionary biology, came to understand first in the non-human animals he studied like fruit flies and ladybug beetles, and later in humans, that genetic diversity at the racial or population level was far greater than most people knew. Racial groups were much more genetically complex than a typological race concept would allow.

So how did Dobzhansky redefine race? To Dobzhansky, race was simply a methodological tool to facilitate the scientific study of human and other populations. Race was not a fixed entity, it was a way to organize individuals within a species based on the frequency with which a gene or genes appeared in that population. Depending on the genes being investigated, there could be just a few or many races. What made his definition so important and so radical was that he understood that the way we choose to organize differences in gene frequencies within species were about data and methodology, not about an underlying racial hierarchy or about the fixity of certain traits within specific groups. Dobzhansky thus sought to extract racism from the race concept.

By the 1960s, Dobzhansky grew disillusioned with the race concept, and came to believe that the scientific study of race was not only inseparable from its broader social meanings, but that it could also be put in the service of reinforcing those social meanings. The rise of the Civil Rights Movement and his own battles with other scientists over the imprecise and often inappropriate use of the term ‘race’ led him to issue a challenge to the field: devise better and more meaningful methods to investigate genetic diversity.

More than fifty years later biology still struggles with Dobzhansky’s challenge and still operates within a paradox that he himself struggled with. On the one hand, race can be an important tool to help scientists organize genetic diversity. On the other, race is an imprecise marker of genetic diversity and not a great proxy for elucidating the relationship between our ancestry and our genes.

This paradox remains central to the use of race in our genomic age. For example, it is currently too expensive to sequence everyone’s genomes, so the rapidly growing field of personalized medicine relies on race as a proxy to make best guesses about an individual’s disease risk and how one’s genes influence the response (positively or negatively) to drug treatments. Because genetic variants can cluster in populations, the belief is that this can help clinicians and drug companies make medical decisions based on one’s race. The potential danger here is that we inadvertently reinforce a crude understanding of race, forgetting that it is a highly flawed concept that cannot be used as a proxy for an individual’s own genome.

It turns out that muddled thinking about race is as deeply ingrained in scientific as non-scientific thought, and that scientists are as conflicted about race as the rest of society. It is neither cynical nor misguided to acknowledge this. It is only a reflection of a society that continues to struggle with the meaning and impact of racial difference.

Michael Yudell, Interim Chair and Associate Professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health, is author of “Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the 20th Century,” which was recently published by Columbia University Press.

TIME Military

U.S. Army Changes Policy Approving Use of Word ‘Negro’

"The racial definitions ... are outdated, currently under review, and will be updated shortly."

The Army has amended “outdated” U.S. Army policy guidelines that said that the word “Negro” could be used to refer to African Americans in data on race and ethnicity, after the regulation surfaced in media reports Wednesday.

LTC Ben Garrett confirmed to TIME that the language referring to the word “Negro” was removed from the Army Command Policy on Thursday.

The regulation appeared in a section on equal opportunity and may have dated back years. As CNN reports, citing an anonymous army official, the regulation may have been intended to allow African Americans to self-report as Negro.

In fact, the Census Bureau included the word on surveys through 2010 for that reason, deciding only last year to drop it, according to the Associated Press. Until then, the government believed that some older African Americans would still identify as “Negro,” a term that arose during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the AP reported.

In the wake of sometimes breathless media reports about the regulation, the Army said it would follow suit.

“The racial definitions in AR600-20 para. 6-2 are outdated,” Garrett said in a statement before the regulation was altered. “The Army takes pride in sustaining a culture where all personnel are treated with dignity and respect and not discriminated against based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin.”

TIME Civil Rights

How Gandhi’s Time in Jail Helped His Cause

Mahatma Gandhi TIME Cover 1930
Mahatma Gandhi on the cover of TIME, Mar. 31, 1930 TIME

Nov. 6, 1913: Mahatma Gandhi is arrested in South Africa while leading a march to oppose a racist policy

Before he was the pioneering civil rights activist called by the honorific “Mahatma” (“great soul,” in Sanskrit), Mohandas Gandhi was a young attorney just trying to take his seat on a train.

Not long after moving to South Africa in 1893 to help an Indian merchant with a legal problem, he was kicked out of the first-class section of a train — despite having bought a ticket for it — after being told, “This is for whites only,” according to Ramachandra Guha, the author of Gandhi Before India. “He had just come from England, where — at least in London in the 1890s — professionals who were colored did not face discrimination,” Guha said in an interview with NPR. The experience was both humiliating and eye-opening, and set the stage for the civil disobedience that would become Gandhi’s legacy.

He paid a price — including four periods in jail during his 21 years in South Africa — for demonstrating against discrimination, but continued with protests, such as leading Indian expats in opposing a racist law requiring all Indians to register with the “Asiatic Department” and to carry their registration cards at all times or risk deportation. His final stint in a South African prison began with his arrest on this day 101 years ago — Nov. 6, 1913 — for leading a march of more than 2,000 people to protest a tax on Indian immigrants.

While he left South Africa for good the following year, his arrest record was far from complete.

Going to jail was, in fact, one of the sharpest tools in Gandhi’s nonviolent tool belt, along with fasting (or a combination of the two). According to TIME’s 1948 report on his assassination, British authorities often freed him from jail when he began to fast, “lest a massive anger at his death in their hands engulf India.” Gandhi himself once said, according to the story, “I always get my best bargains behind prison bars.”

The lessons he learned about the effectiveness of peaceful protest in South Africa formed the basis for his efforts to end British oppression in India. In the book Satyagraha in South Africa, Gandhi relates a conversation with a tailor in 1915, just after returning to India.

He gave me some account of the hardships inflicted on the people in Viramgam, and said:

“Please do something to end this trouble…”

“Are you ready to go to jail?” I asked.

“We are ready to march to the gallows,” was the quick reply.

“Jail will do for me,” I said. “But see that you do not leave me in the lurch.”

Read TIME’s original coverage of Gandhi’s assassination, here in the archives: Saints & Heroes: Of Truth and Shame

TIME celebrities

Bill Maher Will Be UC Berkeley’s Commencement Speaker Despite Student Protest

Celebrities Visit "Late Show With David Letterman" - September 8, 2014
Television personality Bill Maher enters the "Late Show With David Letterman" taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater on September 8. Ray Tamarra—WireImage

School says it's not "an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements"

The University of California, Berkeley says it will not rescind an invitation to comedian Bill Maher to be the school’s commencement speaker, despite a student vote to disinvite him.

The student committee in charge of the speaker selection process voted to rescind the HBO host’s invitation on Tuesday amid growing criticism of Maher’s views on religion and particularly Islam. More than 4,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to cancel Maher’s December commencement speech.

But on Wednesday, the university released a statement saying it will not accept the student vote.

“The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech,” the school said. “It should be noted that this decision does not constitute an endorsement of any of Mr. Maher’s prior statements: indeed, the administration’s position on Mr. Maher’s opinions and perspectives is irrelevant in this context, since we fully respect and support his right to express them.”

Maher’s response to the controversy? You’ll have to watch the show:

Read next: Watch Ben Affleck and Bill Maher Argue About Islam

TIME Religion

Southern Baptists Strike a Different Tone than Catholics in Conference

Pope Francis leads the synod of bishops in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican
Pope Francis looks on as he leads the synod of bishops in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican on Oct. 6, 2014. Claudio Peri—Reuters

As Catholic bishops emphasized welcoming gays, Southern Baptists voiced more concern about mainstream acceptance of gay marriage

Marriage has been in the Christian spotlight this October. The month began with Pope Francis bringing together 250 Catholic leaders to discuss marriage and the family at the Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops in Rome. This week, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is hosting a three-day conference in Nashville. The topic is “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage,” and the purpose is “to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families and their churches.”

At first glance, the two gatherings may seem similar. Both brought together various church leaders to discuss marriage and family. Both groups hold formal positions against gay marriage and seek to affirm and strengthen straight marriages. Both events were framed in prayer and liturgical structures, whether it was a candlelit prayer service at the Vatican or a Christian praise band rocking out on stage in Tennessee. Men were the primary speakers and participants at each gathering, even though both made an effort to include a handful of women’s voices.

But the differences are eye-catching. The Catholic bishops discussed a host of issues families face around the world from war to economics to cohabitation; the Baptists honed in on the growing acceptance of homosexuality in Western contexts. The Synod sessions happened behind closed doors; the ERLC event is live streamed. The Catholic Church is comprised of more than one billion people and has a two millennia history; the Southern Baptist Convention has a smaller network of 50,000 churches and is just 170 years old, though it often signals views in the mainstream evangelical community.

The most noticeable difference was tone. Pope Francis opened the synod on the family by asking the church leaders to speak freely, and saying his goal was to listen. “A general condition is this,” he told them on day one, “Speak clearly. Let no one say ‘this cannot be said.’ … At the same time, you should listen with humility and accept with an open heart what your brothers say.” The bishops took him at his word, and that openness inspired lots of debate on how to welcome gays within the confines of Church teaching.

The ERLC conference, by contrast, is not an open forum—dissenting voices are not included in the presentations. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, opened the gathering on Monday in a defensive posture, saying that Western society is experiencing “a moral revolution” happening “at warp speed,” one that now celebrates things that were previously condemned. “We are accustomed to speaking from a position of strength,” Mohler said, explaining how traditional evangelical opposition to homosexuality is no longer mainstream.

Sin is a central topic in Nashville, and one that was noticeably absent from the Synod’s public documents. Mohler suggested in his opening remarks that Christians should approach gays in ways “not about their sin (homosexuality) but about our sin (all shortcomings).” Glen Stanton, director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, continued the theme: “Every one of us is stricken with an eternal disorder called sin,” he said in his talk called, “Love my (LGBT) Neighbor.” “How do we love gay and lesbian people? … The great equalizer is our sin.”

On the whole, the conference makes clear its strong on moral opposition to homosexuality. Many of the prominent speakers champion a pointed opposition to mainstream culture, and nearly all use the phrase “someone who experiences same-sex attraction” or “a homosexual” instead of using preferred, self-identifying terms of LGBTQ persons. Erik Stanley, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, compared the show Modern Family to a gateway drug for accepting gays and described Matthew Shepard’s murder as a gay hate crime hoax. Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who declined to make a wedding flower arrangement for a gay couple, said, “They can destroy me but they cannot destroy God and his word.” The crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Some speakers have hinted at a more welcoming tone. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a former lesbian women’s studies professor who converted to evangelicalism, stopped living as a lesbian and married a male pastor, explained that she learned the hospitality gifts she uses as a pastor’s wife from her years in the lesbian community suffering from AIDS in the 1990s. She shared how she converted because a pastor was her friend who did not invite her to church but made her feel safe by turning off his air-conditioning and offering her vegan food to accommodate her then-progressive lifestyle choices. “I never felt like a project,” she said.

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, offered a nuanced approach to the practical challenges of changing sexual ethics. Moore said he would not attend a gay friend’s wedding ceremony because that would involve participating in their marriage vows, but he would attend their wedding reception. He also would not cut himself off from relatives “who are lost or in situations you disagree with—Jesus never did that.” Churches should care more about issues like gay and lesbian homelessness, he said, and young couples should be thinking about the long-term commitments of their wedding vows and what they mean if one partner gets Alzheimer’s disease or has an affair. Moore even suggested Christians can learn something from Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign: Christians should not marginalize gays over other sinners. “If there is some particular sin that has to be whispered in our congregation, then we are not truly Christian,” he explained.

What’s happening in Nashville gives the world a peek at the kind of culture different church leaders are cultivating in the midst of changing societal views on sexuality. For the evangelicals and Baptists in Nashville, it is time to double down. And that’s a reminder of just how dramatic the Vatican’s tone shift under Pope Francis—however small that opening may be—actually is.

Read next: What Christianity Without Hell Looks Like

TIME LGBT

U.S. Will Recognize Same-Sex Marriage in 6 More States

Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop of Centreville, Virginia, embrace each other after they became the first same sex marriage couple in Arlington County at the Arlington County Courthouse on Oct. 6, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia.
Erika Turner and Jennifer Melsop of Centreville, Va., embrace each other after they became the first same-sex married couple in Arlington County at the Arlington County Courthouse in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 6, 2014 Alex Wong—Getty Images

Same-sex couples in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will now receive federal benefits

The federal government will recognize same-sex marriage in six new states, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Holder’s announcement follows the Supreme Court’s decision this month to decline to hear appeals from several states that sought to maintain their marriage bans.

The government will also extend federal benefits to same-sex couples in those six states.

Holder made a similar announcement about seven other states last week, including Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. With Saturday’s announcement, same-sex couples will be recognized by the federal government in 32 states, plus the District of Columbia.

“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” Holder said in a statement Saturday. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.”

TIME Ferguson

Ferguson Cop Said Michael Brown Reached for the Officer’s Gun

Officer Darren Wilson told investigators that Michael Brown reached for Wilson's gun

The police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and that Brown reached for his gun, The New York Times reported late Friday. The story marks the first time the officer’s account of the shooting that sparked weeks of protests and sometimes violent clashes between outraged citizens and police has become publicly known.

Citing unnamed government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation, the Times reported that the police officer, Darren Wilson, told investigators he was in fear for his life as he and Brown struggled for the officer’s gun. Wilson also said that Brown punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck.

FBI forensics tests confirm the gun was fired twice in the car, with the first bullet hitting Brown in the arm and the second bullet missing its target. Forensics tests also show Brown’s blood on the gun, on the inside of Wilson’s car door panel and on Wilson’s uniform.

Wilson’s testimony to investigators, however, contradicts some witnesses’ accounts, and does not fully answer still-looming questions raised by the shooting. Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family, said Wilson’s story doesn’t explain why the officer fired at Brown multiple times after leaving the vehicle, for example.

“What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” said Crump. “The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.”

[New York Times]

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