Last year, to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we turned to the Chicago History Museum and their Prints and Photographs Collection and highlighted Declan Haun’s photojournalism of Dr. King’s activism, including his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, the 1965 Selma-Montgomery marches, and the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement.
To celebrate his life this year, we’re featuring more of Declan Haun’s photography from Chicago History Museum’s Prints and Photographs Collection: this time, looking specifically at some of the more impressive photographs from the Selma to Montgomery March. Haun moved to Chicago in 1963 and documented the fervor of standing up for equality that Dr. King inspired among millions of Americans during the later years of the Civil Rights Movement. Haun was notorious as a free-lance photojournalist for the strong sense of social conscience for his subjects, translating his compassion into attention to the composition and formal aspects of his photography.
The Selma-Montgomery marches were three separate marches, held along the 54 mile strip of highway between the small city of Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. It was organized as a voting rights march to counter systemic voter registration obstruction in Alabama and across the greater South. It was also a response to the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson that February, who was shot by a state trooper during a non-violent march.
The first demonstration on March 7th became violent, when state troopers assaulted unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The organizer, Amelia Boynton was beaten unconscious, and the press published a photo of her lying on the bridge.
On Tuesday March 9th, clergy from across America joined the marchers as Dr. King led them towards Montgomery along the same route. The marchers turned around on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, obeying a federal injunction that prevented the march from crossing into the unincorporated part of Dallas county. That night a white mob murdered James Reeb, a minister from Boston who had traveled to Montgomery.
Haun’s photographs of the march depict the realness of the events, and retell the story of Dr. King’s impact and the fight for civil rights with details and compassion that could otherwise be overwritten. Photographs of people assembling along with the necessary and uncurated and often invisible parts of organizing and fighting for rights such as living rooms filled cots and mattresses to house people from out of town aren’t just a statement about the stakes and drive of people, but actual evidence of the energy that went into fighting for civil rights.