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Exhibition of photographs by Stephen Somerstein opens at Modernism Inc.
Stephen Somerstein, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., seen from behind, addressing crowd of 25,000 civil rights marchers in front of Alabama state house, Montgomery, Alabama - March 25, 1965, 1965. Gelatin silver print, 11 1/4 x 16 3/4 inches image size, 16 x 20 inches paper size.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- On March 25, 1965, triumphant civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King, Jr. marched into Montgomery, Alabama. It was the culmination of a fifty-mile procession from Selma. The march, which was actually three linked marches, reflected the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement, and grew out of the on-going voting rights campaign, centered in Selma, Alabama. The first march (“Bloody Sunday”) on March 7th came to a violent conclusion at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the marchers encountered a cordon of state troopers and a group of horsemen armed with clubs and whips. National television news crews captured footage of the marchers being ferociously clubbed, whipped, and tear-gassed. The second march (“Turnaround Tuesday”) was a trial run by Dr. King, while Federal protection for the march was being negotiated.

It was the third march that brought together many prominent civil rights advocates, civic leaders, union leaders, prominent writers and cultural figures who supported voting rights, as well students from colleges across the country. Only the third march, which began on March 21 and lasted five days, made it to the state capital, Montgomery, 51 miles away. Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, they arrived in Montgomery on March 24, and at the Alabama Capitol building on March 25. Here, at the steps of the state capital, before 25,000 marchers, Dr. King delivered a stirring address, now referred to as his "How Long, Not Long” speech: "I know you are asking today, 'How long will it take?' . . . How long? Not long, because you still reap what you sow! . . .'"

Stephen Somerstein (b. 1941, New York City) is a documentary photographer and former physicist whose vision has been shaped by the complexity and richness of the urban-cultural landscape. His work spans a continuous thread from the 1960's (i.e., Greenwich Village cultural scene, Berkeley anti-war movement, civil rights, Harlem, Manhattan), on to the present, covering cultural, social and political subjects. In 1965, as Editor-in-Chief and Photo-Editor of the City College of New York (CCNY) evening newspaper MAIN EVENTS, Steve journeyed to Alabama to cover the historic Selma to Montgomery civil rights march. In January 2015 these photographs were the subject of a major exhibition at the New York Historical Society.

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