Putting a Face to the Civil Rights Movement

Amanda Montigney, Reporter

As part of Black History Month, the university is showing the movie “Selma” with the first person account by civil rights activist Mary Hudson.

Dan Kimbrough, Assistant Professor of Mass Communications and Design, will read a foreword by Hudson, who is also Kimbrough’s mother. The film chronicles Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights through an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

Hudson grew up in Wilcox County, Alabama, and she was born before the Civil Rights Act was passed.

“But in Alabama, one of the things you ran into was that just because the law changed, didn’t mean anyone was enforcing it,” said Kimbrough.

Segregation was illegal, but it still happened when Hudson was in school.

“The school she was going to was a K-12 school, and then when there was a new school that was built, that was for white kids only. The school the black kids went to, if it sat 20 kids, there would be 50 lined up against the walls, making it tough for the kids to learn,” Kimbrough said.

Kimbrough remembers his mother’s stories about kids boycotting school. Hudson told him that due to overcrowding, children would skip school and instead take  buses to the Wilcox County state house.

“Bunches of students would petition and picket at the court house, and they decided that they would actually try to walk up to the steps, and the governor of Alabama said that if they did they were going to go to jail. I can’t remember how many of them that there were, but they were all arrested on a Friday and locked up and they were all in jail, I believe, until Monday afternoon,” said Kimbrough.

Hudson’s original in-person visit and film screening was canceled due to snow, but Kimbrough wants to put a face to the civil rights movement and enable students to hear from someone who went through it.

“If she was able to make it in person, rescheduling conflicts due to snow, they would be able to see someone who went through what this film was about. They would realize that she isn’t that old. It’s not that long ago. This is part of our history. This isn’t something that people get over. This is something that we have to sort of work through and get through it together, and if we aren’t willing to, these things will continue to happen,” Kimbrough said.

The film contains a shocking scene of the infamous church bombing at the beginning. Hudson attended that church and she was there that day. 

“She was literally around the corner and heard the bomb go off and went outside frantically to see what was going on and found out that the church was bombed. For her, that was sort of the earlier things she remembers about racism. I want students and the community to see it because when you see the film, the initial notion is usually, ‘Oh, that happened so long ago’ or ‘It’s in the past why can’t we get over it,’” said Kimbrough.

Kimbrough wants students to understand that racism and injustice are not things of the past.

“My mom is only 65 years old. When it happened she was 10, so it wasn’t that long ago, and given what’s happening today, it’s not that far removed from sort of what we are dealing with now. So for us to move forward, we have to kind of realize that this is our history, and this isn’t even ancient history. This is really recent history and that most students here if it wasn’t their parents, their grandparents, lived through the civil rights movement, and so we’re not even a full generation away from that time period, and we’re inching really close to going back to some of those things.”

Kimbrough hopes that young people will not allow racism to grow in strength, and he believes the way to tamp it down is education.

“Hopefully in watching the film, they will sort of see that we don’t want to repeat those things and that this happened once recently, and it could happen again,” he said.

Kimbrough said his mother was very outspoken about racism and discrimination and she wouldn’t allow it to happen to her children.

“She wanted us to know the history of this county and the abuses that people of color have had to suffer through. She was very vocal about it so we understood where African Americans placed in American history, and that we always had to strive to be better to prove that we were equal with everyone else, and the idea that we had to do twice the work just so we could get equal footing as everyone else,” said Kimbrough.