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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Harris Lake County Park is home to several species of salamanders. Join us as we learn about these elusive amphibians and see some up close. All ages. Meet in the Educational Garden at the picnic...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Durham Stake presents a family-friendly show featuring favorite Dr. Seuss books all together in one story. Join the Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, and many others on a journey through...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1050 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Contact Name: Bethany Fager
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is putting on the hilarious, yet sometimes tender, musical production of Seussical on March 15-16 and 22-23. It is a family-friendly show that...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1050 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: Durham Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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The Raleigh Boychoir will reach new heights as our choristers and community present Dr. Tim Sharp’s “High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass.” Welcoming area boys to perform in...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Baptist Church
99 N Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Raleigh Boychoir
Telephone: 919-881-9259
Contact Name: Erin O'Hara
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Ziggy is a shy boy who would rather stay at home and watch television than explore the island of Jamaica. Over the course of his onstage journey, with some help from his friend Nansi, he...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theatre
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. Choose course #121675.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Celtic Woman celebrates Ireland's rich musical and cultural heritage, while continuing its remarkable legacy of introducing some of Ireland's most talented singers and musicians onto the...

Cost: $43 and up

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist...

Cost: $25 and up

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Shop for gently used kids' clothing, toys, furniture, baby equipment and more. See the website for shopping hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Hayes Barton Baptist Church
1800 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.