It’s been 50 years since the Selma to Montgomery March - one of the most significant marches in civil rights history - that brought awareness to the opposition of black voter registration and eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The 2014 movie “Selma” depicted that march and the violence that ensued when Alabama state troopers beat the protesters all the way back from the Edmund Pettis Bridge to Selma. To commemorate this historical event, photojournalist Matt Herron will lead a discussion at 5:30 p.m., Monday, March 9 at Clovis Community College Center to kick-off his photo exhibit, “I’m Walkin’ For My Freedom - The Selma March & Voting Rights Act.”
“This event is both historical and educational,” said Gurdeep Hebert, director of student success, equity and outreach at the college. “Exhibits, such as this one, travel to some of the country’s most elite museums and now we have it right here on our campus, and there is no charge for anyone to come in and view it. To have the opportunity to host such an exhibit is an honor.”
The exhibit, which includes 30 black and white photographs, will be on display in the lobby of Clovis Community College Center’s Academic Center I from March 9 through April 13. The images were captured by Herron over a five-day period and illustrate events before, during, and after the Selma to Montgomery march.
“It was the most intense five days of shooting in my entire existence,” Herron said. “I spent most of the time walking backwards and looking through a camera lens at the marchers. I don’t have much memory of how I slept or cared for myself or anything. It was a wonderful time, and a very moving time, and a very intense piece of work for me. I still look back on it as kind of a high point of my civil rights experience.”
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Herron said what stands out most in his mind from the march was the culmination of it.
“When we all marched up to the state capital in Montgomery and there was a flatbed truck, and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and James Baldwin and a whole bunch of other people spoke - that was a grand moment because initially few people thought the march could leave Selma, let alone make it all the way to Montgomery.”
Herron and his family moved to Mississippi in 1963 to continue his work as a photojournalist and to lend his skills to the Civil Rights movement. During his time as a civil rights photojournalist, Herron said he was jailed a couple times and clubbed a couple times. When he later moved to New Orleans, Herron said it took him two years to lose the habit of looking in the rear view mirror to see if someone was following him.
“We all developed rules of thumb for surviving in those situations,” Herron said. “I was scared most of the time and there were times when I got out of a scene, because I knew it was dangerous ...You’re always making judgments if it’s safe to continue and whether the risks you’re taking are worth the photographs.”
Those risks he took then are what make up his exhibit today - an exhibit that Herron says is important today because college students and youth don’t know enough about the civil rights.
“The Civil Rights was a complex revolution that occurred mainly in small, rural towns throughout the south, and though there were prominent leaders like Martin Luther King, a lot of the work was done by ordinary folks who had been trying to do something in their communities for decades,” Herron said. “It was a joining of young, mostly black college students, coming south and settling in these communities and working with local leaders, and this is what finally brought about the civil rights movement and the change, and that story isn’t very well known today. I’m hoping the show will create an educational moment for people ... It’s always local people and local actions that leads the way.”
Herron has created an educational packet that coincides with the exhibit and will be available at the event.
Herron will also have copies of his 2014 book, “Mississippi Eyes.” The book recounts the adventures of a group of photographers he organized to document the events occurring in the south during the Civil Rights movement.
“We encourage people to come to the opening reception for Matt Herron and visit his photo story on the historic march to Selma during this 50th anniversary year of that transformational event,” said Deborah Ikeda, Clovis Community College Center campus president. “We will be hosting many other such events and want to encourage the community to come to campus to see these exhibits as well.”
The exhibit will be open to the community from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. The exhibit will be closed on Friday, April 3.
Details: To schedule a school group tour, contact Gurdeep Hébert at (559) 325-5378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about Matt Herron
In addition to this exhibit, Herron has curated a 158-print photography exhibition, This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, featuring nine photographers who joined the civil rights movement and shot it from the inside. This Light opened in Salt Lake City and is now touring the US. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the George Eastman House, the Smithsonian Institution, the High Museum of Art, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He is the subject of several profiles, including Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, and a cover story in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, June 2014.
For more information, visit mattherronwriter.com/