He was a young priest with a camera when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago in the 1960s, but now his images of racial tumult and civil rights marches are housed in the Smithsonian.

Bernard Kleina, an amateur photographer at the time, captured a shot of helmet-wearing police officers flanking both sides of a march down Kedzie Avenue. In another, King stands behind dozens of microphones. One photo shows a band of angry white men preparing to throw items at a parked car.

"I knew that some people would oppose what Dr. King was trying to accomplish, but I never imagined how violent the marches would become," said Kleina, who had been inspired to document the Chicago Freedom Movement after visiting Selma, Ala., a hub for civil rights efforts.

The Smithsonian Institution added 30 of Kleina's color images to its collection earlier this year, said curator Rhea L. Combs. Some of the photos will be featured in an upcoming book, and officials said others might eventually be displayed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opens next year in Washington.

Combs said Kleina's photos add nuance to America's fraught racial history and serve as a reminder that discrimination and hatred existed beyond the South.

"The action and the anger is just so palpable within the shots," she said, "and that oftentimes really falls in the face in what people's perceptions are as it relates to the North."

Kleina's images show the crisp blue uniforms of Chicago police officers, King's silky black necktie and the sea of green, blue and orange umbrellas shielding spectators from the sun at a Soldier Field rally in 1966.

Those bright colors, a rarity for photos from that era, might make the subject more accessible for younger viewers used to seeing the civil rights movement in black-and-white photographs, Combs said.

"The fact that it's in color allows people to think, 'Wow, this could be happening today' — when in fact many of these civil rights issues are still happening today," she said.

Kleina, 78, eventually left the Roman Catholic clergy but stayed involved in the housing issues that brought King to Chicago. A former director of the HOPE Fair Housing Center in the western suburbs, Kleina today is a professional photographer based in Wheaton.

Marching with King in Chicago in 1966, Kleina said he was targeted with projectiles thrown by spectators upset at King's demonstration and the message that everyone should have access to affordable housing. He said he recognized some of the Catholic parish names on the clothing of the mob members.

"They're throwing rocks at me and everybody else and bottles and cherry bombs, and they're from Catholic high schools in the area," he said. "It's just not right.

"It was quite an eye-opener for me … and extremely disappointing. I guess it's in part because of that that I devoted my life to trying to make sure that people can live where they can afford to live, where they can achieve their American dream."


Twitter @MitchKSmith