Beginning in 1918 and leading up to the present day, Stacker gathered the most iconic images from the past 103 years. Of course, the story is tragically the same in 2020 as it was in 1918, as a century after the Spanish flu, the world has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and the adjustments it’s brought to our lives.
Not only have these photographs captured our attention visually, but they’ve prompted action at times—even occasionally changing the course of history. During the 1960s, for example, images of Black children being sprayed with fire hoses brought attention to the civil rights movement. During the 1970s, a photograph of a college student screaming in Ohio turned America’s eyes toward the conflict in Cambodia and police brutality at home. A similar phenomenon occurred during the Vietnam War when, unlike the pre-screened shots permitted to be published during World War II, the images that came home were uncensored and graphic. These raw photos fueled general anti-war activism and may have even prompted John F. Kennedy to take action.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, either. Photographs have captured our most joyous victories and proudest achievements, and our most famous entertainers, athletes, movie stars, dancers, and politicians. When reflecting on triumph in World War II, the first image that comes to mind may be the 1945 “V-J Day in Times Square” moment in which a returned sailor dips and kisses a nurse in celebration. And perhaps the most iconic photo in Olympics history: the 1968 image of Black track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in solidarity.
Scroll on to see history told in 103 photographs.
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