History’s Most Iconic Protest Photos

Hunger strikes. Silence. Marches involving thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people. A protest is a protest by any other name and sometimes they can change societies very own philosophical trajectory.

In examining these pivotal events, we decided to put together a list of a few of our favorite, and widely considered most iconic, protest photos of all time. Enjoy!

History’s Most Iconic Protest Photos

Captioned, “Powerful image of protester being detained near HQ of the Baton Rouge PD.” this recent photo captured in the midst of Baton Rouge’s recent turmoil over the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police officers is as good a starting point as ever.

Shot by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters, the photograph shows a calm, peaceful black woman in profile, standing in the middle of the street as two police officers in riot gear appear to aggressively charge her as they attempt an arrest.

The image has been making headlines with some calling it a “modern masterpiece” of protest culture.

Something about her grace and the way her dress twirls in the wind while these machine-like men charge her small stature makes this an unforgettable image.

A Park Deserves A Nice Place To Sit

Rosa Parks became one of the most important civil rights symbol when she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama on Dec. 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger.

Three hundred and eighty-one days of protests followed and eventually the Supreme Court ruled to desegregate public transportation.

The Dog Days Of Civil Disobedience

Showing the often violent realities that many protesters face in the fight for civil and human rights, this image shows a 17-year-old civil rights demonstrator being attacked by a police dog on May 3, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama.

The young man was defying an anti-parade ordinance.

Rules Are For Squares

One of the most harrowing historical photos that represents the opposition of both warfare and political corruption, as well as showing clear passivity at the hand of the oppressor, is this iconic photo showing a man in Tienanmen Square standing defiantly in front of several T-59 tanks.

I always wondered about this man’s story. He has a bag in his hand. Is it a shopping bag?

Did he walk out of a store and just go, “Hey, I’m sick of all this war. I’mma go stand in front of those tanks and end it all,” and then the tank drivers were like, “Bro, we don’t wanna squish you! We aren’t monsters!”

Flower Power

This powerful image has become a pop-culture staple. It shows Jan Rose Kasmir as she stands in front of National Guard servicemen in front of the Pentagon during the Oct. 21, 1967 anti-Vietnam War march.

The image has been recreated in television and film and has become a symbol of the power of love in the face of overwhelming odds.

A Spicy Pill To Swallow

One of the modern revolution’s most powerful and widely circulated images is of students at the University Of California, Davis, being pepper-sprayed straight to the face by Police Lt. John Pike as they sit peacefully in honor of the “Occupy Wall street” movement of the early 2010’s.

The spicy pill you ask? A judge ruled that the university must pay Lt. Pike $38,000 in workers’ compensation due to the depression and anxiety he suffered as a result of backlash garnered from the image.

The image has become a symbol in recent years, only further fanning the flames of discontent.


Have you been a part of the modern revolution? Do you remember even more iconic protest photos from throughout history? We want to know: comment below and share on Facebook!