Selma to Montgomery Exhibit: A Must-See Ahead of Election Day


Published:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King lead a crowd of civil rights marchers through the streets of Montgomery, Ala., on March 25, 1965.

Photos by Spider Martin, courtesy of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Courage, hatred, solidarity, brutality and alienation are caught in black and white in the exhibit, "Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote: Photographs by Spider Martin" at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh through June 4, 2017. Admission is free.

The exhibit is a powerful tribute to the work of those who peacefully marched and endured attacks by Alabama state troopers in 1965 so black Americans could have the right to vote. Martin (1939-2003), a photojournalist with The Birmingham News, walked with the marchers, capturing moments that turned international attention to the civil rights movement.

A large and diverse crowd of civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to protest for African American voting rights.

“He got his nickname, ‘spider,’ because he was a small guy — about 5 feet 2 inches and about 125 pounds — and he would use his physique to climb in the trees or on top of trucks, whatever it took, to get that special angle or shot, so that in the exhibit there are a lot of really unique angles,” says Earl L. Ijames, curator at the North Carolina Museum of History. “They are really unique perspectives of the civil rights marchers that documented the courage of the civil rights marchers and the brutality that they met.”

The 46 images transport viewers back to March 21, 1965, when more than 2,000 civil rights marchers attempted to make their voices heard by crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. They walked for five days to Montgomery, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King, led them into the capital singing freedom songs. In the photos, we see the quiet resolve of the marchers — black and white, students, clergy, working men and women — who came from across the country. The exhibit also features photographs from March 7, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday,” which was the first attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery, when Alabama state troopers tear-gassed and beat the demonstrators until they bled. That first march was organized by students as a protest after Alabama state troopers murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson, a black civil rights activist, while he was attempting to register voters the previous month.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, then head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma, can be seen in one photo with other marchers during a confrontation by Alabama state troopers on “Bloody Sunday.”

“Right after that, when they refused to turn around, literally saying, ‘We won’t be turned around,’ they were beaten within an inch of their lives, and Spider Martin was able to capture those photographs and broadcast those photographs to the world, which led to public outrage across the country and the world,” Ijames says.

Other poignant photos include one of Jim Letherer, a cancer survivor with one leg, who marched the entire 54 miles on crutches and another of Dr. King speaking to about 25,000 people gathered at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on March 25, 1965. Through his photos, Martin captures the tangible and allows it to reveal the intangible. An obscene finger jeering demonstrators from the sideline reveals rage; the sores on a marcher’s weary feet speak of perseverance.

Cancer survivor Jim Letherer (with crutches) marches the entire 54-mile journey between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, March 21, 1965. Marchers holding flags keep pace with Letherer, who kept spirits high by chanting “Left, left, left.”

The sounds of hymns and freedom songs play in the background as visitors walk through the exhibit. The soulful music reinforces the images we see of patient persistence and a belief that evil can be overcome — as it was. Four months later, on Aug. 6, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, giving all U.S. citizens the right to vote.

As Election Day approaches, this exhibit — curated and circulated by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute — is a timely reminder of why we should show up to cast our ballot in every election. Take your teenagers to learn about the sacrifices of those who worked to ensure that all could have the opportunity to vote. But be warned: Some of the images in the exhibit are disturbing, and rightly so, because they show pain and suffering, as well as disdain for the rights of others. But along with capturing the dark side of humanity, Spider Martin also sent a message that resonates today and emphasizes the power of people of all races who work together to effect change. We also see the face of goodness.

Exhibit-Related Programs for Children

The North Carolina Museum of History is hosting two October programs for children to coincide with the exhibit. Register here

History Corner: History in Pictures
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 10-11 a.m.
Ages 6-9 (with adult).
$3 plus tax per child; $1 plus tax for associates/museum members.
For information, call 919-807-7988.
Tour two photo exhibits (photographs by Hugh Morton and Selma to Montgomery) and investigate the past through pictures.

History Hunters: Picture Perfect
Wednesday, Oct. 5, noon-2 p.m.
Ages 10-13.
$3 plus tax per child; $1 plus tax for associates/museum members.
For information, call 919-807-7988.
Arrive with your own digital camera or smartphone and learn some basics of good photography with Raleigh photographer Ray Pfeiffer, who will talk about using photos as historic records and help you take some pictures of your own. Afterward, see how you did in a show-and-tell review session.
 

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It's your last chance to catch the Wolfpack at home this season! Help RED OUT Duke by wearing your favorite RED NC State Gear to the meet. The first 300 fans will receive an exclusive RED OUT...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center
2611 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Preschoolers (ages 3-5 with an adult) learn what wild animals do in winter by pretending to be animals that hibernate, migrate or just stay warm in the cold, winter woods! Take a hike, do a craft,...

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
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Explore nature through play!  The Main Library is partnering with local Tinkergarten leaders Heather Murphy and Kate MacCartney to bring the fun of nature indoors.  Join us as we investigate...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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January Story Time, Puppet Show & Art Activity Puppet Show Incorporated https://www.puppetshowinc.org/ presents the classic Aesop fable The Lion and the Mouse. Activities include a story time,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Carrboro Library
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Inside McDougle Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Carrboro Branch Library
Telephone: 919-969-3006
Contact Name: Beth Hawkey
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Want a wild start to your new year?When you’re facing the after-holiday blues after packing up the decorations and taking down the tree, never fear. Come celebrate the new year in a thrilling,...

Cost: $20 - $26

Where:
Animal Park at the Conservators Center
676 E Hughes Mill Rd
Burlington, NC  27217
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Sponsor: Animal Park at the Conservators Center
Telephone: 336-421-0883
Contact Name: Taylor Sharp

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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
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Family Wildlife Series: Owl Prowl Saturday, January 18, 6-7:15 p.m. Venture into the night on a Blue Jay hike.  Learn about owl habits and adaptations as we listen for these nocturnal birds....

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
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Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.