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Arts & Culture

Selma To Montgomery: The March For The Right To Vote

Throughout the Civil Rights Movement photographers played a key role in showing the violence and brutality experienced by those trying to desegregate the south.

Spider Martin of The Birmingham News was one of those photographers who documented the movement. A traveling exhibit of his work from the Birmingham Civil Rights InstituteSelma to Montgomery: The March for the Right to Vote” is on display at the Levine Museum of the New South. WFAE’s Sarah Delia visited the exhibit and spoke to one Charlotte resident who has a personal connection to Martin’s work.

The first thing you notice when you look at Spider Martin’s collection of photographs is his ability to capture someone in an honest moment. One picture shows a man with his head in his hands, exhausted from the march. Another photograph is of dirty, blistered, scabbed feet. 

And then there are the photographs taken on the final day of the march from Selma to Montgomery. In them Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses thousands of marchers from the steps of the capital in Montgomery.

For 84-year-old Barney Offerman these pictures of the last day of the march are personal.

Somewhere in the pictures he stands in front of at the Levine Museum of the New South, he’s there, listening to Dr. King’s “How Long, Not Long” speech.

Offerman’s eyes light up as he goes from image to image—these photographs are familiar to him like a personal photo album.

“It brings back the tremendous feeling you had at the time, that civil rights would come of age and extend to the black community. It brings that spirit up and it requires a spirit,” Offerman says.

At the time of the march in 1965, Offerman worked at Loyola University in New Orleans. He says when he and his friends heard about the events of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they had to go and participate in the march. They drove to Montgomery to the City of Saint Jude.

He remembers the overwhelming amount of people waiting to complete the march and the diversity of the marchers: young, old, some from the north, some from the south, and all different religions.

Offerman says he remembers the grandness of the entrance to the state capital.

“We marched in. And you come to this Montgomery in Alabama, they have quite an entrance,” he says.

Offerman spent his career working in civil rights and teaching. He spent ten years at Johnson C. Smith University teaching courses from economics to civil rights related classes.

Offerman says it’s important for these photographs to be seen.

“An exhibit can be a ‘here are the rewards of your attitude and how much progress has been made.’”

Spider Martin’s work documenting the march from Selma to Montgomery is on display at the Levine through February 22.

Archival audio for this story came from Pacifica Radio Archives.

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