Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote: Photographs by Spider Martin

North Carolina Museum of History

Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote: Photographs by Spider Martin

On March 21, 1965, more than 2,000 people crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to begin a 54-mile march for African American voting rights and equality. The march ended five days later in Montgomery, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King, led crowds into Alabama's capital city while singing freedom songs.

Spider Martin (1939-2003), a photojournalist with The Birmingham News, walked with the protestors, capturing powerful images that brought international attention to the Civil Rights movement. Fifty-one years later, you can see his work in Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote: Photographs by Spider Martin, opening Saturday, Sept. 3, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. Admission is free, and the exhibit will run through March 5, 2017.

Selma to Montgomery is curated and circulated by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the City of Birmingham and contributions to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Corporate Campaign.

Martin's 46 compelling images range from hecklers and confrontations to white citizens marching in support of voting rights for black Americans. The exhibit also features photographs of "Bloody Sunday," the first attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. As the march began, violence erupted, and civil rights demonstrators were teargassed and beaten by Alabama state troopers. Martin's raw images of the violence quickly spread across the nation and brought the Civil Rights movement to the forefront.

Outraged after Bloody Sunday, hundreds of activists from across the country came to Selma to participate in upcoming marches. People of different religions, social status, races and backgrounds joined together as one to participate in them.

Ultimately, civil rights marches and rallies resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law on Aug. 6. The landmark legislation gave all United States citizens the right to vote.

John Lewis (now a U.S. Representative) and other marchers during a confrontation by Alabama state troopers on March 7, 1965, Bloody Sunday. Lewis was head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Selma.

The large and diverse crowd of civil rights marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 21, 1965, to begin the journey.

Jim Letherer, a cancer survivor with one leg, who marched the entire 54 miles on crutches in support of voting rights for African Americans.

Members of the clergy and representatives of faith communities who answered Dr. Martin Luther King's call and flew to Alabama to walk in the march.
Joan Baez singing to inspire a crowd on March 24, 1965, on the outskirts of Montgomery.

Dr. Martin Luther King speaking to about 25,000 people gathered at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery on March 25, 1965.

As you tour Selma to Montgomery, listen to freedom songs that include "We Shall Overcome," "I Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Freedom" and "Freedom in the Air." Come learn about this pivotal time in our nation's history, and explore Martin's photographs that played an integral role in the Civil Rights movement.

For details about the N.C. Museum of History, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, call 919-807-7900 or access or follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or YouTube.


Edmund Pettus Bridge

Edmund Pettus Bridge

A large and diverse crowd of civil rights marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to protest for African American voting rights. This last of the three Selma to Montgomery marches through Alabama's "Black Belt" (where African Americans comprised the majority of the population) began on March 21, 1965. Image credit: Spider Martin, courtesy of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.


Jim Letherer

Jim Letherer

Cancer survivor Jim Letherer (with crutches) marches the entire 54-mile journey between Selma and Montgomery, Ala., March 21, 1965, in support of voting rights for African Americans. Marchers holding United States and United Nations flags keep pace with Letherer, who kept spirits high by chanting "Left, left, left." Image credit: Spider Martin, courtesy of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.






Dr Martin Luther King Jr


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. (fourth from left) and Coretta Scott King (fifth from left) lead a crowd of civil rights marchers through the streets of Montgomery, Ala., on March 25, 1965. The marchers sang freedom songs like "We Shall Overcome" as they entered the capital city. 



About the N.C. Museum of History

The N.C. Museum of History is located at 5 E. Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The museum collects and preserves artifacts of North Carolina history and educates the public on the history of the state and the nation through exhibits and educational programs. Each year more than 300,000 people visit the museum to see some of the 150,000 artifacts in the museum collection. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

About the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan Kluttz, NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call 919-807-7300 or visit


  • North Carolina Museum of History
  • 5 East Edenton Street
  • Raleigh, NC 27601


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