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Lew Alcindor, basketball player, 61st Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, May 2, 1963

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt made this portrait of the world-famous photographer Richard Avedon in 1963. Alfred Eisenstaedt, Portrait of Photographer Richard Avedon, 01 January 1963, Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was among the famous people Avedon photographed for the book Nothing Personal, on which he collaborated with writer and activist James Baldwin. Richard Avedon, Dwight David Eisenhower, President of the United States, 1965, gelatin silver print (printed 1970), The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund. ©The Richard Avedon Foundation

This photo shows Lew Alcindor in action as a player for University of California, Los Angeles, in 1967. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection

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Avedon and Alcindor

Both Richard Avedon, the photographer, and Lew Alcindor, better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were superstars in their chosen professions. Both also dedicated themselves to the cause of civil rights.

Richard Avedon was one of the world's most famous fashion and art photographers from the late 1940s into the 21st century. During the early 1960s, he traveled through the southern United States photographing participants in the American Civil Rights Movement. He took pictures of African American leaders such as Malcolm X, and movement opponents like George Wallace, governor of Alabama, for a book he called Nothing Personal, a collaboration with James Baldwin, the novelist, playwright, poet, and civil rights activist.

Avedon's photographs often present political or ethical positions. And, despite opposition from others in the fashion business, Avedon chose and photographed the first non-white model, China Machado, to appear in a fashion magazine. He later championed Donyale Lewis as the first black super model.

Lew Alcindor, already known to sports insiders when Avedon shot this picture, finished his high school career with 79 wins and only two losses. An A-student, he also studied black history and learned about his own family's African heritage. In 1971, Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

By the time he retired from professional basketball in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar was the NBA's leading scorer and winner of six championships. His accomplishments on the court are legendary.

Abdul-Jabbar is also an educator and best-selling author. He has written many books about black history, including On the Shoulder of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, co-authored with Raymond Obstfeld, and Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII?s Forgotten Heroes, with Anthony Walton.

Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar's newest book What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors uses a fictional narrative to provide a history lesson.
January 2012