CNN Photos

On May 3, 1963, escalating racial tensions came to a violent head when black activists clashed with city authorities in Birmingham, Alabama.

Bruce Davidson of Magnum Photos was among the photographers on the scene. The demonstrations produced some of the most iconic images of the civil rights movement.

“It was important for me to be there, stay close and observe,” says Davidson, now 79.

Photographs and video of black youths and nonviolent protesters being beaten by police and sprayed with high-power fire hoses landed in homes across the country. As a result, the tide began to change.

Before then, the Birmingham campaign had been struggling to gain ground. The movement, organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, began quietly in April.

A month later, they were trying a new approach. They enlisted the help of hundreds of children for a march against segregation, later called the…

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