Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Sisters of Selma" depicts the Selma-Montgomery voting rights marches of 1965 in visual detail

The PBS film “Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness to Change” (2006, one hour), by Jaysari Hart, is one of the most detailed accounts of the civil rights marches in 1965 in Alabama ever available.
The sisters felt particularly motivated by the voting rights controversy.  Only about one percent of blacks could vote then, because poll rules allowed examiners to ask voters civics questions that they could not answer.  The rules would change with the Voting Rights Act passed later in 1965, although some issues remained for the Supreme Court even in 2013. A number of activists (named in the film) were attacked and killed (before Dr. Martin Luther King in April; Dr. King speaks in Alabama in the film.
The sisters mention the ecumenical directions of Pope John XXIII, to become more involved in human rights.  It would seem that their actions fit the ideals of Pope Francis today even more closely.
There would be three marches, on March 7 and 9 (met by heavy and bullying police tactics) and a final march, from Selma to Montgomery, AL on March 16, under National Guard protection.

The film shows a lot of black-and-white footage from the Selma marches that is surprisingly crisp and of good technical quality.  There are some interesting pictures of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, both then and today.
The film also shows political operations in Selma in 2005, where African Americans are a majority of voters and have many seats on the city council. It's rather interesting me that Selma is the seat of Dallas County, Alabama. As the film started. it wasn't immediately clear that they weren't talking about Texas. 
There is a compelling scene where a policeman harasses a black demonstrator in Selma, and the activist asks the policeman to pray with him. The policeman barks that he can’t be made to love anyone he doesn’t want to love, and then uses the “n” word.

Demonstrators were told not to march unless they could remain non-violent, even when attacked or harassed.  They couldn’t “hit back”.

The ITVS site for the film is here
Wikipedia attribution link for original 1965 “Bloody Sunday” confrontation at Pettus Bridge.

See also "March to Justice", Feb. 6, 2013. 

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