How To Commemerate The 50th Anniversary of The Selma March


You may have noticed an extra intensity to Monday’s Martin Luther King day marches here in New York City (there were two fairly large actions in Manhattan alone), and anyone who’s been paying attention will tell you that race relations remain a vital issue both in the city and in America as a whole. This year, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of one of the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, the five-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., and completed by thousands of enormously courageous individuals, both black and white, local Alabamans and from all over the country. Here, then, are two terrific ways to commemorate, and celebrate, the historic Selma March, both of which, by the way, also serve as excellent “primers” of that era: the people, the tactics, the reasons for the fight.


See the Oscar-Nominated Movie, Selma

First, there’s the movie Selma, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The critically acclaimed film is perfect for a dinner and a movie date. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its subject, Selma has generated more than its fair share of controversy, from those who think that Lyndon Johnson is unfairly portrayed as the villain, and from those who think that the Academy snubbed director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo, among other possible nominees. Personally, I loved the film, don’t agree that LBJ comes across that badly (MLK is also no saint here, by the way), do agree that DuVernay should have been nominated–and should have won–Best Director, for taking this enormously complicated and emotional story, and telling it clearly, and engagingly, without melodrama or too much exposition. It’s a great achievement, a smart, gripping movie that I think should be seen by all middle- and high-school students. And by you. But don’t believe me, or anyone else; go see it for yourself.

Visit ‘Freedom Journey 1965 ‘ at The New York Historical Society

The New York Historical Society is also honoring the Selma march with a fantastic exhibition of photographs from those five momentous days. Taken by Stephen Somerstein, who was the picture editor for the City College newspaper at the time (hence the NYC connection), and who bussed himself down to Selma, five cameras slung around his neck, in time to document the entire event. Somerstein had full access to the march’s “stars”, from King to James Baldwin to Rosa Parks, but what really make the 55 photographs in the “Freedom Journey 1965” exhibition here so noteworthy are the everyday people, and the ordinary moments, he captured: the dust and fatigue, the guarded hope in the eyes of black bystanders, and the fear and rage of the white folks. In a way it’s the perfect complement to Selma, the movie, which doesn’t show the actual five-day walk, cutting from the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to King’s mighty speech in front of the Alabama state capitol. Freedom Journey 1965 will be on exhibit through April 19. The New York Historical Society is located on Central Park West and 77th Street, and is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to-6:00 p.m., on Fridays until 8:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 11:00 to 5:00. 


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