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Today in Media History: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the news stories from Selma

On January 19, 1965, the press reported on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Selma, Alabama.

During this, his second January trip to the city, King addressed a voter registration meeting and outlined his civil rights goals for Selma.

The following excerpt comes from an AP story published soon after Dr. King’s arrival in Selma:

“King had returned only a few hours earlier to lead the voter registration campaign and a test of public accommodations facilities.

Several sources said downtown restaurants had agreed to desegregate.

King arrived with his corps of civil rights workers and went into a strategy session for the first step in what he has said would be a massive assault on segregation here.

The integration leader, who flew to Montgomery and then traveled the remaining 45 miles by car, said he would take part in the desegregation attempt.

With him were the Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, a close associate in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth of Cincinnati, head of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, an SCLC affiliate, and the Rev. Andrew Young and the Rev. Bernard Lee of the SCLC staff in Atlanta.”

On January 19th, more than sixty of Dr. King’s supporters were jailed by Sheriff James Clark in front of the county courthouse.

According to the UPI wire service:

“King said a federal court would be asked to register applicants turned down by county registrars. He said teams of lawyers were being sent to Selma by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to help with the project.”

January was just the beginning.

In the months ahead, there would be many more news stories from Selma.

A great resource about this chapter in civil rights history is the documentary “Eyes on the Prize.” Here are links to short (6 minutes) and long (55 minutes) versions of their Selma episode. Much of the program uses newsreel and broadcast news footage.

Poynter has posted a portion of the book, “The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation,” by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. It recalls the media coverage of Selma:

“When the tear gas cleared from his eyes, Reed walked to the spot where the march leaders had knelt. He saw John Lewis and Amelia Boynton sprawled unconscious on the ground. Later, in his room at the Albert Hotel, Reed watched the CBS footage of the mayhem and marveled at how close Laurens Pierce had managed to get with his heavy camera….”

(See Also: “Selma and Richard Valeriani: A Reporter’s Story.”
By Nancy Doyle Palmer, Huffington Post, 2015.)

On March 7, 1965, about 600 people began the first Selma march, but they only reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were attacked by state troopers. It is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

On March 9th, a limited second march took place. A third march, from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, was held from March 21-25.

Here is an excerpt from a story by Roy Reed, a reporter for The New York Times:

“SELMA, Ala., March 21 — Backed by the armed might of the United States, 3,200 persons marched out of Selma today on the first leg of a historic venture in nonviolent protest.

The marchers, or at least many of them, are on their way to the State Capitol at Montgomery to submit a petition for Negro rights Thursday to Gov. George C. Wallace, a man with little sympathy for their cause.

Today was the third attempt for the Alabama Freedom March. On the first two, the marchers were stopped by state troopers, the first time with tear gas and clubs.

The troopers were on hand today, but they limited themselves to helping Federal troops handle traffic on U.S. Highway 80 as the marchers left Selma.”

After the marches ended, Dr. King appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

In this clip from the new film “Selma,” Dr. King makes a statement to the press, much like he must have done back in 1965 when the journalists reported their news stories from Selma.

Read more

from Poynter. http://ift.tt/1EhpTyh

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