My group has chosen the image titled “Self Immolation” which depicts a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in the streets of Saigon in June of 1963. I myself am specifically addressing the immediate impact and reception the photograph had on the American public. I began my research efforts by seeking the basic background of the photo. The photographer, Malcolm Browne, aside from being a Pulitzer Prize winner for International Reporting, was also a well-known journalist who wrote for the Associated Press during the Vietnam War, and then took a position writing for The New York Times thereafter. The monk shown in the image captured by Browne was a man named Thich Quang Duc, who lit himself on fire and proceeded to burn to death, silently, in protest of the ban the South Vietnamese government had placed on flying a Buddhist flag. An interesting fact I discovered was that in 1963 the Buddhist population within South Vietnam accounted for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the entire country’s population. The South Vietnamese government, I concluded, must have been aware of the rage and outcry that would occur following the ban.
My research then led me to primary newspaper sources found within Google’s newspaper archive section. Upon basic searches of Malcolm Browne, I was only able to find stories he had authored during the time period; therefore telling me that the original photograph that ran was not attributed to him specifically. I searched ‘Buddhist monk’ from June 1, 1963 to June 31, 1963 and found several hits from smaller newspapers outlying the funeral arrangements that occurred and the protest of more than 500 monks themselves, upset at the governmental ban that remained. The initial news reports of Thich Quang Duc’s death and funeral arrangements tells me that the event quickly became worldwide news, with articles appearing in small town based papers that had the story the day after the event. Although I have not stumbled across the image itself in print from 1963, I am hopeful that a day spent looking at microfilm will show the image appearing in world renown papers so I can understand more about the public’s initial reaction.
Newspaper Archive Articles:
June 10, 1963: The Miami News, Miami, Florida
June 11, 1963: The Evening Independent, Massillon, Ohio
June 12, 1963: Lakeland Ledger, Lakeland, Florida
June 18, 1963: Lewiston Morning Tribune, Lewiston, Idaho
June 26, 1963: Lakeland Ledger, Lakeland, Florida
June 27, 1963: The Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario, Canada