(Posted March 16, 2015)

David Hsiung, professor of history
David Hsiung, professor of history

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Two Juniata College history professors will introduce showings of the Oscar-nominated (Best Picture) film "Selma," at the Clifton 5 Theatre in downtown Huntingdon, as part of the 50th anniversary of the college's participation in the Freedom Marches of 1965.

David Hsiung, Knox Professor of History, will talk about the participation of 15 Juniata students, three Juniata faculty and several local ministers who traveled from Huntingdon to Alabama in 1965 to work for equal rights as part of an introductory talk at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, before the 7 p.m. showing of "Selma." Tickets to see the movie are $6, and patrons can pay at the door.

On Thursday, March 26, Jim Tuten, professor of history, will provide the introductory talk at 6:30 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. showing of "Selma." Both historians will provide an overview of the events leading up to the famous march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., (which is the climactic element in the film "Selma") and discuss the details of the participation of Juniata students who "went south." Buses to the theatre will leave at 6 p.m. from Ellis Hall.

In addition to the movie events, the college will sponsor a showing and discussion of the film "Freedom Riders," which tells the story of groups of college students and activists who took buses south to volunteer to work for civil rights, at 7 p.m., Monday, March 16, in C116 in the Brumbaugh Academic Center. Cynthia Merriwether-de Vries, associate professor of sociology, will lead the discussion. On March 30 at 7 p.m., another discussion group "Freedom Riders" will take place in C116, Brumbaugh Academic Center. The discussion will be led by De Vries, or Rosalie Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion.

Another film event shows "Freedom Summer," which tells the story of the struggle for voter registration for African Americans in southern states. The movie will be shown at 7 p.m., Thursday March 19, in C116 in the Brumbaugh Academic Center. The discussion will be led by Polly Walker, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies.

By March 12, the trip to Selma involved 15 students, three faculty and several local ministers. More than 100 students and faculty marched to the steps of the Huntingdon County courthouse singing "We Shall Overcome." Those bound for Selma began their southern journey in five cars shortly after noon.

The college also will sponsor a Non-Violent Protest Training Workshop Wednesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. in Room C116, Brumbaugh Academic Center.

During the week of March 23 through March 27, the college will ask students to wear wristbands indentifying them as a person who lived during this important era of civil rights struggles throughout the South and other states. At the end of the week there will be lunch discussion at Baker Refectory at noon, Friday March 27.
The march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge depicted in "Selma" took place on March 7, 1965 as a group of activists began a 50-mile march to the state capitol in Montgomery. Just six blocks after setting out, the marchers were assaulted with tear gas as mounted horsemen charged into the crowd wielding clubs, beating more than 50 marchers.

After the incident, both of the groups involved in the march, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sent requests to college campuses across the country to send students to "go South" and work for equal rights.

The Juniata group that traveled shortly after to Selma met in a dorm room to discuss the call for volunteers put out the Selma-based civil rights groups. The next day, an official group was formed led by four students and Galway Kinnell, a poet in residence at Juniata that semester.

By March 12, the trip to Selma involved 15 students, three faculty and several local ministers. More than 100 students and faculty marched to the steps of the Huntingdon County courthouse singing "We Shall Overcome." Those bound for Selma began their southern journey in five cars shortly after noon.

The group arrived in Selma March 14 and were diverted by organizers to Alabama's capitol, Montgomery. The next morning, March 15, the Juniata contingent joined another protest at Alabama State and was blocked by campus police. Stymied, the group later started a march to the state capitol to present then-Gov. George Wallace with civil rights petitions. They were stopped almost immediately and held a sit-down protest.

By March 16, another march to the state capitol began, with more than 1,000 participants led by SNCC leader James Forman. Policemen from the Montgomery Police Department, many on horseback, charged the crowd flailing with clubs, cattle prods and whips. Three Juniata activists were injured: Kinnell, the late Don Hope, a professor of English and Gerald Witt, a minister with the local Evangelical Brethren Church.

Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.