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The University of Texas at Austin


Briscoe Center Opens Exhibit of Spider Martin’s Iconic Civil Rights Photographs
April 8, 2014—December 19, 2014

The Power of His Camera: Spider Martin and the Civil Rights Movement

Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
The University of Texas at Austin
2313 Red River
Sid Richardson Hall, Unit 2
Austin, Texas

Exhibit Hours:
Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
(check Reading Room hours for Saturday closing schedule)

"He left, through the power of his camera and with a quick eye, images that will educate and sensitize unborn generations." —John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Congressman

The Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to showcase the iconic photos of James "Spider" Martin in its new exhibit, The Power of His Camera: Spider Martin and the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1965, photojournalist James "Spider" Martin (1939-2003) was the youngest freelance photographer at The Birmingham News, where he covered everything from Alabama football to country club social events. He also covered civil rights protests, and witnessing the violent treatment of peaceful protesters had a profound effect on his career, generating a rage that would fuel his photography. His images of "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, galvanized public opinion in support of the protestors. Martin joined the historic march from Selma to Montgomery later that month in two capacities: as a member of the media and a participant in the struggle for racial equality.

Civil rights leader Andrew Young later wrote that considerable credit for the movement's success was due to members of the news media, whose work showed the world the violence that the peaceful protesters encountered. Young noted, "It is largely because of [Martin's] talent that we, as a people and a nation, so vividly remember 'Bloody Sunday.' Although violence broke out at many other places, and on many other days, the images from this critical day are forever emblazoned in the public consciousness."

This exhibit of Martin's photographs from March 1965 joins the Briscoe Center's extensive photojournalism holdings, which contain unparalleled resources on the history of news photography. The Briscoe Center's general photographic archive documents events of national and international significance, with more than 6 million images from the late 1840s to the present. A number of those collections depict the civil rights movement, notably the archives of photographers Flip Schulke, Bruce Roberts, R. C. Hickman, and Calvin Littlejohn. The center also has extensive civil rights and social justice collections, including the papers of Congress of Racial Equality founder James Farmer.

The Briscoe Center would like to thank Tracy Martin, Spider Martin's daughter, for her vital assistance in helping the center acquire these iconic photographs. The center would also like to thank Martin's associate Jonathan Purvis for his assistance.