Self Immolation Post 1

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,3654554&dq=monk&hl=en

June 11, 1963: The Evening Independent, Massillon, Ohio,1282100&dq=monk&hl=en

June 12, 1963: Lakeland Ledger, Lakeland, Florida,1763698&dq=monk&hl=en

June 18, 1963: Lewiston Morning Tribune, Lewiston, Idaho,2637151&dq=monk&hl=en

June 26, 1963: Lakeland Ledger, Lakeland, Florida,3964677&dq=monk&hl=en

June 27, 1963: The Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario, Canada,5003614&dq=monk&hl=en

8 thoughts on “Self Immolation Post 1

  1. Rachel,

    This is an excellent blog post and is a good model for other students. Well done.

    I think once you come across the caption for the photo you’ll have more luck in finding it in electronic databases. I suspect you are right that MB’s name didn’t appear under the photo. I searched via DU’s Proquest account (our subscription doesn’t give access to papers back to the 1960s, sadly, but other Proquest accounts will) for MB and found this:

    1963 MALCOLM BROWNE Associated Press A Buddhist monk’s self-immolation protested religious persecution by the Saigon government.

    “In 1963, I was Saigon bureau chief for Associated Press. Buddhist leaders had been complaining of mass persecution by the South Vietnamese government. They said that if the government didn’t lay off there would be a ritual suicide. This day, 300 Buddhists demonstrated in Saigon. A monk, Thich Quang Duc, suddenly sat down in the street. Two other monks poured jet fuel and gasoline on him. He took out a pack of matches and set himself on fire. In combat and other tense situations, your emotions tend to freeze off if you have something to do – such as take pictures. Later, it catches up to you. Technically, this was an easy picture to take. There was bright sunshine . . . but it was a ghastly sight. I’ve seen death in all its forms, but the aftermath in this case was among the worst I’ve experienced.” Malcolm Browne – “THE GREATEST PICTURES EVER TOLD, 1956-1966” (New York) Newsday 1 November 1987, 16.

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