Rare home footage of Civil Rights-era Selma found

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Selma and the 40th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday are getting a little bit more attention, according to Jubilee organizers.

Yesterday, WTVM Channel 13, an NBC affiliate, aired exclusive color footage of Martin Luther King Jr. during its 10 p.m. broadcast, shot in Selma.

Part of the station’s Voting Rights coverage, the piece will highlight the struggle to vote in Selma, according to NBC13 officials.

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Jubilee event organizers said the coverage would help spread the word about this year’s Jubilee Celebration, bringing more people into town.

“The more positive coverage we get the better,” Tarana Burke, one of the event’s organizers said. “It brings (attention) to the anniversary, to Selma and the good work that’s going on here.”

Mike Royer, NBC reporter, said the piece would highlight Alabama’s history and Selma’s part in it.

“We were going to do (coverage of Jubilee) anyway,” Royer said. “This is going to give us the opportunity to present new information.”

The information Royer referred to was the footage of Martin Luther King Jr., shot after Bloody Sunday, when King led the Selma to Montgomery March.

The footage was shot by Lawrence Huggins, a teacher at the time.

According to Royer, Huggins’ footage was brought to light by the efforts of one of the station’s cameramen, Bill Gill.

“Through his friendships here, (Gill) came across Lawrence Huggins,” Royer said. “These pictures were taken and saved in a can.”

Royer said Huggins didn’t view them as historical documents when he originally shot the footage.

“It was kind of like shooting family videos at the time,” he said.

Huggins was part of the Teachers’ Marches that led up to Bloody Sunday.

Royers said he learned of the part that teachers played in the Struggle when the station covered the Teachers’ Reunion, earlier this year.

“Before (the teachers’ marches) many white folks just viewed them (activists) as ‘outside agitators,'” he said.

Royers said after the teachers started marching, others started to realize the legitimacy of the cause.

“That’s when any fair-minded person said ‘this isn’t right,'” he said.

Royers was in town with a crew of nine, which drove in at least six different vehicles.

“Once in a while, a story like this comes along that deserves six vehicles and nine people,” he said.

NBC13 broke the footage during last night’s broadcast, but Royers said the station would also air an hour-long documentary about the Voting Rights Movement and its roots in Selma on Saturday, at 6 p.m.

Fran Curry, another NBC13 reporter, said the special meant a lot to her.

“I was born one year after Bloody Sunday,” she said. “I remember so many stories (my parents) told me about the Civil Rights Movement. (This) is a very special opportunity to me.”

Steve Hyvonen, the station’s news director, was also in town for filming. He said the footage and the conversations with Huggins and other teachers involved in the marches gave the station enough information to fill hours of broadcast time.

“There are so many stories that we’re going to be doing,” Hyvonen said.

Hyvonen said his viewers would be greatly effected by the station’s coverage.

“It’s the history of Alabama, our viewers live in Alabama,” he said. “I can’t imagine living here and not wanting to know.”