This Sunday, the Obsidian Collection—a major archive for Black media headquartered in Chicago—drops its first-ever NFTs, an edit of 15 rarely seen images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Photographed by John Tweedle, whose worked appeared in The Daily News, Jet magazine, The Chicago Sun-Times, and other publications, they chronicle King’s efforts during the Chicago Freedom Movement of 1966, which railed against prejudicial housing practices; poor education, transportation, and job access; and other institutional issues faced by people of color. (The movement was later credited with spurring on 1968’s Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination based on race, religion, or national identity.)
The pictures show King addressing great throngs of people at Chicago’s Soldier Field and in the old International Amphitheatre, as well as at quieter, more candid moments during his months-long visit. Drawn from the personal collection of author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Hermene Hartman, the selection was very intentional: Angela Ford, Obsidian’s founder and executive director, wanted to avoid sterile old tropes as King entered the metaverse. “It’s important that as we digitize and tell Black stories, we humanize a lot of this history,” she says. “So, we’ve got pictures of M.L.K. laughing, smiling, touching people—it’s not just the ‘We Shall Overcome’ thing. The Black diaspora is not trauma.”