Berkeley Carroll Experiences the Selma Marches of 1964


Upper Schoolers write reflections on the movie. Photo via the BC website.

Elias Contrubis, Staff Writer

Nothing shows significance more than the dedication of a whole day, such as Presidents Day, Memorial Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Here at Berkeley Carroll we emulate this grand show of significance with days like Diversity Day.  This year, in a one time only event, Berkeley Carroll has added one more day of significance to its repertoire, Selma Day.

After first period on the fifteenth of January, the Berkeley Carroll Upper School relocated to the Court St. Cinema to see “Selma.”  At the movie theater, Berkeley Carroll was not the only school present, as many schools felt it was important for their students to view Selma. Berkeley Carroll rented out two full theaters and watched the movie. When the movie ended, there was a short period of recollection and once the students returned to BC, they separated into groups and gathered for discussion. Each group was led by a teacher facilitator. The agenda for the discussion was to field questions as well as share feelings and impressions of “Selma,” which was achieved by reading the hard facts of the movement, writing, and discussing.  In a short reflection, junior Angela Goldshteyn wrote, “‘Selma’ is a beautifully crafted movie that not only brought passion and the movements of Dr. King to life, but also portrayed actual historical events.”  This was one of many thoughtful sentiments.

The name “Selma” refers to three marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. These marches were fueled by the disenfranchisement of southern blacks.  Though activists protested peacefully, the first march was met with violence.  Using clubs, tear gas, and an assortment of other makeshift weapons, Alabama state troopers and local citizens brutalized 600 protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Simultaneously, the entire altercation was broadcast on live television across the country and has been referred to as “Bloody Sunday.”  In ensuing events, Dr. King made a plea for sympathisers and clergy to join the protests. Many people, both white and black, came to Selma to join the second march. Upon reaching Edmund Pettus Bridge, the second march was again confronted by a squad of state troopers. This time, the troopers allowed the marchers to pass.  However, sensing that the troopers would trap and surround the marchers, Dr. King lead a small prayer and temporarily abandoned the march.  In the following days, the final and ultimately successful march to Montgomery took place. The protesters were assisted by 2,000 members of the U.S Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard, and F.B.I agents. After all of these marches, southern blacks were finally able to vote. Although my succinct version of events does not tell the full story,“Selma” certainly does.

The movie, starring David Oyelowo as Dr. King, chronicles Martin Luther King Jr. and the proceedings in Selma.  While “Selma” heavily revolves around the experiences of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., unlike other movies, it delves into his personal life and exposes his personality and family dynamics. Although David Oyelowo may not particularly look or sound like Dr. King, he is perfect for the part due to his public speaking skills. Oyelowo so vibrantly captures the power of Dr. King’s speeches by mimicking everything from small nuances and hand gestures to speech patterns and emphasises. Junior Michelle Madlansacay said that “David Oyelowo’s performance in the film was simply moving. I feel that he successfully brought the emotions of the events to life.”  Because Oyelowo’s performance was so powerful, some might not realize that none of Dr. King’s original words are featured in movie due to legalities.  Furthermore, Oyelowo expertly depicts Dr. King’s more human side in his touching scenes with his wife in which they struggle to keep their marriage strong.  Through Oyelowo’s acting, I saw a man who deeply loves his wife, but also understands the importance of his activism.  The character of Dr. King knows deep inside that the civil rights movement will have to take priority over his family, and he expresses his regret for this in the way he treats his wife Coretta.


As with any historical movie, there were controversies about historical accuracies in “Selma.” The most notable one was the portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson, who seemed to be against the the Voting Rights act. For instance, a major scene showed that there was an argument between Dr. King and Johnson, in which Johnson wanted to pursue the War on Poverty instead of the Voting Rights Act. However, historians state that the argument was not whether to pursue the Voting Rights Act, but when to pursue it. In reality, Dr. King argued that the act could not wait any longer, while Johnson believed that proposing the act too early would hurt its chance of being passed. In fact, during the entire Selma movement, Johnson had his administration make a draft of the Voting Rights act. In response to these criticisms, director Ava DuVernay stated, “I think everyone sees history through their own lens and I don’t begrudge anyone from wanting to see what they want to see. This is what I see. This is what we see. And that should be valid. I’m not gonna argue history; I could, but I won’t.”  However, despite the historical inaccuracies, Selma is without a doubt an excellently thought provoking movie.

Though “Selma” is culturally important in many ways, the most important aspect of the movie is its emphasis on the everyday people who risked their lives for this movement.  It is very easy to overlook the people, just remembering leaders like Dr. King, but it is important to remember that the civil rights movement was not a one, two, or even three man show.  The movement fought by the people, the movement fell by the people, and the movement ultimately succeeded by the people.  It is important to thank all those brave souls who sacrificed themselves for what they believed and also to commemorate them by adhering to their call and fighting the injustices of our world.