Selma 1965: The Photographs of Spider Martin
© 2015 University of Texas; photography Spider Martin
128 pages, 80 photographs
During the 50th anniversary of the Selma March back in 2015, one of the more popular exhibits in the city was a public showing of Spider Martin’s photography. Martin, named for his skinny, agile frame — and perhaps his ability to clamber up a tree for particularly engaging shots — covered all three march attempts in 1965, taking some unbelievably close to the action. Selma 1965: The Photography of Spider Martin collects Martin’s best material to present a visual history of the entire campaign. Although virtually all of the shots are available in an online gallery, here they are presented with both a historical introduction covering the Selma movement, and with captions which explain what is happening and who is involved. The editor emphasizes John Lewis’ role, pointing him out in every picture he appears in. For those readers who have only seen the movie Selma, Lewis was one of the young Selma leaders who reluctantly ceded the leading position of the local movement to King and his organization. While the photographs are utterly remarkable first for having captured one of the pivotal moments in Civil Rights history, they also have artistry to them; one challenging photo has Brown Chapel mirrored in a man’s sunglasses as he stares at the building. Others capture fleeting instances. While most photos of Martin Luther King depict him in his role as a Civil Rights Leader, full of confidence and courage, in one shot he is caught in a more humbly human expression, one which is curious and anxious, Martin’s gallery is utterly worth looking at, and below is a selected list of links, the title of which describe the moment for those who need a caption.
1. Lewis and others praying before starting the infamous first march which was attacked in Selmont by State Troopers and a county posse.
2. The first march, descending to meet a line of troopers.
3. The moment in which charging troopers hit the first ranks of the marchers
4. The marchers flee for their lives, leaving many of their number behind injured. There were no fatalities, however.
5. State troopers pursued and harried the marchers across the bridge and for several blocks back to Brown Chapel
6. The Tuesday following, King arrived to lead another attempt. Again troopers met them at the bridge, reading out a Federal injunction legally forbidding King to march on the state highway until questions of legality and safety were addressed. King here listens as the injunction is read.
7. After the first bloody march was broadcast on television, King issued a national call to link arms, asking members of the clergy nationwide to join him. The city was flooded with outsiders, much to the horror of those not interested in the movement. Here Selmians and those who joined them clear the bridge and start the long three-day trek to Montgomery.
8. To ensure the marchers’ safety, the Alabama National Guard was used by LBJ to stand guard. This highway is now a much wider link between the cities.
9. The three-day journey would have been a challenge for anyone, but this man apparently did it on crutches.
10. King delivers the “How long? Not long” speech at the State Capitol building, facing Dexter avenue