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University of Montevallo to host exhibition of photos of “Civil Rights Leaders Then and Now”

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The University of Montevallo will host an exhibition titled “Civil Rights Leaders Then and Now: Photographs by James ‘Spider’ Martin and Jonathan Purvis” Oct. 3–24 in The Gallery at Bloch Hall on the UM campus. An opening reception will be held Oct. 3 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The exhibition will feature the historic work of the late Spider Martin covering civil rights events in Alabama in the 1960s and contemporary portraits of four key leaders of these events by Jonathan Purvis.

Martin was a freelance photojournalist who worked regularly for The Birmingham News and other national publications in the 1960s. He is best known for his photographs of the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, including those of Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This exhibition includes many of his iconic images from the marches as well as the sequence of pictures taken as events unfolded.

Jonathan Purvis began his freelance documentary work while a student at the University of Montevallo. In 2007, he was the still photographer for a documentary film project on the Birmingham civil rights leader, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, recording his return to Birmingham with visits to his former church, home and the 16th St. Baptist Church, site of the bombing that killed four girls in 1963. He also photographed for a documentary project on Amelia Boynton, one of the most active leaders in voting rights advocacy in Alabama, who suffered a beating on Bloody Sunday that is captured in Spider Martin’s sequential pictures. In 2011, Purvis photographed Ambassador Andrew Young for a project that brought him back to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he was standing with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated. Purvis’ most recent photographs in the exhibition are from his portrait session with Congressman John Lewis in Atlanta after his participation in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the march on Washington.

In conjunction with this exhibition, a lecture and panel discussion, “Photography and the Civil Rights Movement,” will be presented Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 p.m., in the Merchants and Planters Bank Auditorium in Comer Hall on the UM campus. Dr. Jessica Dallow, UAB associate professor of art history, whose research includes issues on race and representation, will lecture and serve on the panel. Additional panelists will include Dr. Wilson Fallin, UM professor of history and adviser to the president for minority affairs; Jonathan Purvis, a 2010 graduate of the University of Montevallo and freelance photographer; and artist Tracy Martin, daughter of Spider Martin and manager of his archive. The moderator will be Dr. Ruth Truss, UM professor of history and chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. A reception will follow in The Gallery at Bloch Hall.