24 iconic photos that left their mark on history

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walks near the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity July 20, 1969 on the Moon.

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Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walks near the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity July 20, 1969 on the Moon.
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NASA/Newsmakers
  • Some of the most iconic photos in history have captured major moments in humanity, including war, political unrest, and scientific achievements.
  • Photographers have left their marks on the world by capturing major moments in scientific discovery, international politics, and major world tragedies.
  • Here are some of the most iconic photos that have shaped our conception of history.

Photos from major sports milestones, moments of political unrest, and unexpected tragedies have gone down in history as some of the most significant artifacts depicting human struggle and progress.

Here are some of the most iconic photos that captured joy, defeat, and devastation, throughout history:


1932: This image of 11 construction workers sitting on a beam of what is now the GE Building 850 feet above New York City began as a publicity stunt but became an iconic early symbol of the building boom at the height of American industrialization.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, published in the New York Herald-Tribune, Oct. 2 1932, Charles Clyde Ebbets, Tom Kelley, or William Leftwich.
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Wikimedia Commons

Source: Smithsonian Magazine


1937: The Hindenburg, a German airship, publicly crashed to Earth in a fiery explosion caused by static electricity, killing 36 and embarrassing the Nazis, who attempted to use the ship as an example of their engineering skills and as a propaganda aid.

Source: Business Insider


1945: Joe Rosenthal snapped four US Marines raising the American flag atop Japan’s Mt. Suribachi after the battle for Iwo Jima on February 23, in what would become an iconic image of American military determination recreated in statues and icons in the following decades. Only three of the men would make it back to the US.

Source: CNN, USA Today


1945: A sailor and a woman’s kiss in New York’s Times Square went from PDA to an iconic image representing the joy surrounding the end of World War II on August 14. The two went unidentified for years after the picture was published, but Greta Friedman, who has claimed to be the woman in the photo, later said she didn’t know the sailor before he kissed her.

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Victor Jorgensen/U.S. Navy, File

Source: NBC New York, Smithsonian Magazine


1966: The June 6 shooting of civil rights activist James Meredith by a sniper during his “March Against Fear” to encourage African American voter registration in the South poured gasoline on the roaring civil rights movement when leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael continued the walk for him.

Source: History


1968: After African-American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, won gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter run at the Olympic Games, they raised their fists while on the awards podium in a Black Power salute during the National Anthem in a protest against racial discrimination in the United States.

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists in the 200-meter run at the 1968 Olympic Games, engage in a victory stand protest.
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Bettmann/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post


1969: American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history for America and mankind on the July 20 Apollo 11 mission, the first manned mission to land on the Moon. The achievement set off a frenzy for more missions, but only five more would come before a 45-year hiatus.

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Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walks near the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the Moon.
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NASA/Newsmakers

Source: National Air and Space Museum, Business Insider


1972: On June 8, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured children fleeing from a napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. The photo went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and inform viewers far and wide of the war’s real-life horror. Phan Thi Kim Phúc, the girl in the middle of the photo, survived the bombing.

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Photographer: Huynh Cong Ut

Source: The Associated Press, Public Radio International


1972: Members of the pro-Palestinian terrorist group Black September Organization killed 11 members of Israel’s Olympic team after a day-long hostage standoff with German federal agents on September 5 in a deadly turn in Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Following the massacre, Israel conducted airstrikes on Syria and Lebanon and sent out assassination squads tasked with killing Palestinian Liberation Organization members.

Source: The Washington Post


1980: The US men’s hockey team won an underdog victory over the defending four-time gold medal Soviet team at the Winter Olympics. The shocking victory came amid tensions from the Cold War and inspired a movie called “Miracle on Ice.”

Source: ABC News


1989: After nearly 28 years, the Berlin Wall began to come down as Cold War tensions thawed across Europe and Communist leaders in East Berlin allowed for relations with the West to loosen. It would be more than a year before the wall was fully demolished and democracy could take hold.

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West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early November 11, 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall.
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GERARD MALIE/AFP/Getty Images

Source: The Washington Post


1989: Photographer Jeff Widener captured a protestor blocking tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 5 at the height of protests against the Chinese government for freedom of speech. The image of “Tank man,” who is still unidentified, symbolized the determination of people’s fight against their government and remains banned in China.

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Bettmann / Getty Images

Source: Time Magazine, History


1991: Diana, Princess of Wales, made humanitarian history in moments like this one when she was pictured shaking hands with an AIDS patient without wearing gloves, breaking the misconceptions and stigma surrounding interactions with people with HIV and AIDS.

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Princess Diana visiting patients suffering from AIDS at the Hospital Universidade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 25th April 1991.
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Tim Graham/Getty Images

Source: INSIDER


1993: Michael Jordan made his mark on basketball history when he led the Chicago Bulls to their third consecutive championship victory on June 20, 1993 and became only the second player to be named MVP of the finals three times.

Source: The New York Times


1995: Former NFL player OJ Simpson was at the center of the “trial of the century” over his wife’s death, which prosecutors alleged was a murder at his hands. Despite evidence that piqued the public’s suspicion, the results appeared to hinge on a pair of gloves that matched bloody evidence from the scene of the crime, which sparked defense Johnnie Cochran’s catchy conclusion “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles


2000: What started as a custody fight between relatives in Cuba and Miami ended in a pre-dawn raid by federal agents who seized five-year-old Elian Gonzalez to fulfill a court decision to return the boy to Cuba, an alarming example of the intensity of US-Cuba relations and American immigration measures.

Source: Miami Herald


2000: Jennifer Lopez’s Grammy Awards appearance in a skimpy green Versace dress became Google’s most-searched query ever, and led to the creation of Google Images to give searchers the picture they wanted.

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Jennifer Lopez in Versace at the 42nd Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles, CA on February 23, 2000
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Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Source: Business Insider


2001: A picture of then-President George W. Bush being told that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center during an elementary school appearance captures an early moment in one of the greatest tragedies in American history, and Bush’s War on Terror.

Source: History


2008: Illinois Sen. Barack Obama beat out Republican Sen. John McCain to become the first African-American president in US history after promising in his campaign slogan he would bring “Change” to America.

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President elect Barack Obama waves to supporters with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha to during an election night gathering in Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source: NBC News


2013: The aftermath of two explosions at the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15 was widely captured as chaos played out around the press and spectator-heavy finish line and set off a days-long unprecedented manhunt across the Boston metropolitan area.

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Police officers with their guns drawn hear the second explosion down the street while 78-year-old US marathon runner Bill Iffrig lays near the finish line.
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John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Source: NBC News


2016: Donald Trump’s shocking election victory over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton set off gleeful celebrations among his supporters and devastation for those who had hoped for the country’s first female president.

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Republican president-elect Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the crowd during his acceptance speech at his election night event in New York City in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


2017: The first Women’s March saw masses of protesters turn out in cities across the globe, including around 500,000 in Washington, DC, to cry out about a range of issues following the election of Donald Trump as president.

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Protesters walk during the Women’s March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


2017: A mass of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” rally that descended into violent chaos and left three people dead. The clash provoked concerns about far-right-wing groups, an FBI investigation, and national uproar after President Donald Trump blamed “both sides” for violence at the event.

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Peter Cvjetanovic along with Neo Nazis, members of the Alt-Right, and White Supremacists chant at counter protestors after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches on August 11, 2017.
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Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


2018: Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about alleged sexual misconduct from when the two were high school students in Maryland was lauded as a courageous stand against the harsh criticism she received for speaking out.

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Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider