Selma marchers passing by house with people, negro and white. Man holding small American flag. Selma to Montgomery, Alabama civil rights march. March 25, 1965

By Nancy Novick

The New York Historical Society is marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights March from Selma-to-Montgomery with an exhibit of photos taken by Stephen Somerstein that document intimate and memorable scenes of marchers, protestors and speakers, as well as those on the sidelines.

SOMERSTEIN_FR3MLK - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to 25,000 civil rights marchers at end of Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march. March 25, 1965Somerstein was the managing editor and picture editor of the newspaper at City College at the time and was granted access to famous figures including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, Joan Baez, and Bayard Rustin. Included among these striking images is one taken from behind King as he faces away from the camera, a sea of faces revealed before him and the viewer. Another of King and his wife shows an unguarded and joyful moment between the two. A photo of men and children watching marchers from their front porch provokes contemplation on what the event might have meant to those who witnessed it.

At a time when race- and faith-based conflict is all too prevalent in the headlines, these photos provide an uplifting reminder of what can be accomplished by those committed to social justice—even in the face of bias and threats. The exhibit, which showcases 46 photographs of the march and the speeches that followed, remains on view through April 19.

For ideas on volunteering on MLK Jr. Day, click here.

Nancy Novick blogs about the written and spoken word on the Upper West Side at westsidewords.com.

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