There is one more day left in the inaugural NFT auction of rarely-before seen images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in action. It’s a benefit to raise funds for The Obsidian Collection, an online library of black artifacts and history. The 15 images, taken by photographer John Tweedle, went for sale on Juneteenth, with starting bids of $1,000.
The images are all documentation of King’s history trip to Chicago in 1966 – a tumultuous time when he was specifically spotlighting unfair housing laws, racism and other forms of discrimination. Tweedle, a star in his own right and then the official photographer for the city of Chicago, pictured King deep at work in the city that he described as the most racist of them all. In the series, he is shown speaking on a back porch, at a freedom rally and marching by Chicago’s Soldier Field — all significant moments in the fight for American civil rights. One image in particular has the sign “End slums” behind King, and it reminds armchair historians that King’s values included true equity in all areas of life, though he is oft remembered solely as the author of the “I Have a Dream” speech. The images are from the collection of local Chicago publisher Hermene Hartmann.
As Obsidian founder and executive Angela Ford notes in her podcast: “This segment of Chicago and American history was thrown against the larger social and political changes continuously sweeping through the country. The Vietnam conflict and polarizing opinions around it, the demand for Black Equality and the clear diversions amongst Black community leaders on the most effective way to secure it, the last vestiges of the Great Migration of Southern Blacks moving to the North for better economic opportunities and to escape Southern hatred, an ever changing national political scene after the assassination of JFK, the beginning of the Black Panther Party, a never ending list of issues to contend with.”
A handful of the images at press time had gained starting bids or more and the bid window closes at 8 p.m. on July 1. The sale is handled by Lotus, a web3 platform known for art ownership and also known for managing more than $9 billion in assets for its users, many of whom are the artists themselves.
The Obsidian collection has other moments, which it describes as “important Black moments in time,” that are valuable enough to be auctioned as NFTs. Ford and her team have now made over 250,000 images, articles, and other information available to the public, after being inaccessible for decades.