The temporary exhibit, March to Freedom will be on display at the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum June 6 to August 26, 2017. March to Freedom features photographs by James “Spider” Martin that are in the collection of The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The photos on display cover the events of March, 1965 during the protest marches in Selma, Alabama.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the charismatic leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), joined with civil rights leaders including James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph, and John Lewis to lead peaceful demonstrations and conduct nonviolent acts of civil disobedience publicizing the need for equal rights, including a national voting rights law. The media coverage of their peaceful demonstrations, which were at times met with violent opposition, helped garner widespread support necessary for the passage of voting rights legislation. The 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama opened the door for the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

In 1965, renowned photojournalist James “Spider” Martin was the youngest freelance photographer at the Birmingham News, where he covered everything from Alabama football to country club social events. Witnessing the violent treatment of peaceful protestors had a profound effect on Martin’s career. His images of Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, galvanized public opinion in support of the protesters. Martin joined the historic march from Selma to Montgomery later that month in two capacities: as a member of the media and as a participant in the struggle for racial equality.

Through Martin’s camera and the words of Congressman John Lewis, former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), March to Freedom follows a determined group of marchers, both black and white, as they tried on three different occasions to take their cause to the steps of the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery.

March to Freedom is an exhibition by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin and the LBJ Presidential Library, presented in partnership with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Martin’s photographs from March 1965 are part of the Briscoe Center’s extensive photojournalism holdings.

Image above:
Alabama state troopers confront the marchers, led by Rev. Hosea Williams and John Lewis. Williams holds his nose in anticipation of tear gas.
Photograph by James “Spider” Martin, James “Spider” Martin Photographic Archive, Copyright Tracy Martin

Image on homepage:
John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Albert Turner, and Bob Mants lead the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As John Lewis later recalled, “As we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge we saw a sea of blue—Alabama state troopers.”
Photograph by James “Spider” Martin, James “Spider” Martin Photographic Archive, Copyright Tracy Martin