With countless films and documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement in general, none had ever focused on one specific event that occurred in the movement. Many people in fact, can remember the Montgomery Bus Boycott as the biggest event that occurred, with Rosa Parks being the one to start it, but not many people know about the following events.
The new film “Selma,” however, is specifically about the 1965 Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama and how it was led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Hevel, Hosea Williams, and John Lewis. Focusing on the challenges Martin Luther King Jr. faced both personally, and as a civil rights leader, this movie sculpted a narrative easy for the audience to follow while never straying from the important events that occurred in American history.
As I sat down to watch this film, I immediately became sucked in within the first few minutes. The movie spared no details on the grim reality black Americans faced while living in the post-segregated South as they struggled for basic rights. Every day became a battle not just against the American government but against the daily struggles with racial discrimination. What was especially interesting to me was the portrayal of the agency of the civil rights movement as they regularly organized and advocated for their rights. Specific scenes that outlined their power and strength as a unit was having “classes” on what to expect during the protests. Each person was specifically trained to endure hardship and violence at the hands of white civilians and white police officers alike. The fact that these classes are often overlooked in history books downplays the reality of activism overall and the lengths black people were willing to go through in order to fight for their rights.
However, as well as this story was told, there were a few important points that it seemed to miss. As this story continued to unfold, it became obvious that this fight was more between black men and white men. Black women played major roles in this historical event and yet, even Coretta Scott King was reduced to a housewife that provided additional stress to Martin Luther King Jr., rather than the civil rights leader she actually was. In fact, the only roles that black women played in this movie were where they are serving food, or being beaten and actively dehumanized whereas the black men took charge of the organizing and had lengthy dialogues that highlighted their intelligence and dignity.
By the end of the film, I was feeling more satisfied than disgruntled. Although the film was not fair in giving credit to many black women who were an important part of the voting rights march, it did not sugarcoat or try to justify the injustice that black Americans faced in the South. Although many people feel assured that much of the injustice did not carry on to present times, there are still countless civil rights issues to face, from immigration rights, to equal pay for women. I would recommend that everyone watch this to have a better understanding of activism and American history.