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Mamie King-Chalmers, woman in civil rights photo, dies at 81

Mamie King-Chalmers, who as a young Black woman appeared in an iconic photo about civil rights struggles in Alabama, has died at the age of 81.

She died Tuesday in Detroit, her home since the 1970s, daughter Lasuria Allman said. A cause wasn’t disclosed.

King-Chalmers, 21 at the time, was one of three Black people forced to brace themselves against a building while being blasted with water from a firehose in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. The photo by Charles Moore appeared in Life magazine.

King-Chalmers years later recalled how she was attending a protest in a park when her group was confronted by police and dogs.

“It trapped me in the doorway,” King-Chalmers said during a Detroit school visit in 2013, referring to the firehose. “The hose was so strong it damaged my hearing.”

Another activist claimed to be the woman in the photo, but she dropped that claim in 2013 after The Detroit News investigated.

King-Chalmers earned an associate degree in gerontology from Wayne County Community College, married twice and raised eight children, Allman said. Her husband, Walter Chalmers, died in February.

“She should be remembered for her courage, strength and determination to make a difference,” Allman said.

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.