Sunday, September 20, 2009
More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his public crusade for civil rights in the state of Alabama, as the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. This week, Dr. Shawn Kildea, an assistant professor of Communication at Rider, will travel to Tuscaloosa as a William Randolph Heart Scholar in Residence at the University of Alabama. The common thread between King and Kildea is the legendary photojournalism of Graeme “Flip” Schulke, whose photographs of King gave people from every corner of America a glimpse into the struggles of African-Americans to attain equality in the turbulent 1960s.
Kildea’s three-day visit to the flagship campus of the state university system from September 22 to 24 will include guest lectures in journalism classes, including one in Documenting Justice. It’s a subject Kildea got to know very well as the co-producer of Stills of the Movement: The Civil Rights Photojournalism of Flip Schulke, a 32-minute documentary detailing the career of Schulke, who, in addition to King, also chronicled civil rights demonstrations, protests and riots, and other iconic figures of the movement such as boxing great Muhammad Ali.
“The class on Documenting Justice focuses on news reporting on civil rights issues,” said Kildea, who will speak along with Dr. Larry H. Spruill, a professor of History at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Spruill, who knew Schulke personally, wrote his authoritative doctoral dissertation on photojournalism and the Civil Rights Movement.
Kildea is already well acquainted with Spruill, whom he joined on a panel discussion at Morehouse following a screening of Stills of the Movement at the college’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week. King earned a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse in 1948.
“His knowledge of the subject is incredible,” said Kildea of Spruill. “It’s an honor to teach and present with him again.”
The week will also feature a campuswide screening of Stills of the Movement, followed by a panel discussion about photojournalism in the south during the Civil Rights Movement, according to Kildea.
In addition to Morehouse and Alabama, Stills of the Movement has been shown at a number of institutions, including the University of Miami during the prestigious film school’s Communication Week, as well as at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France. The documentary, co-produced by Patty Wittenburg ’09 and narrated by veteran actor John Amos, was screened for the first time in the spring of 2009.
Schulke had established a friendship with King then extended back to 1958, when he was sent to photograph King for a story in Ebony magazine. In Stills of the Movement, Amos details an exchange between King and Schulke in March 1965, toward the beginning of the march on Birmingham, Ala., from Selma. As Amos tells the story, police were beating a child with a club, and Schulke stepped in to pull back an officer’s weapon when King said to him, “We as a people have been beaten down and murdered for hundreds of years. Your job is to document what is happening to us. You cannot be a participant.”
Following King’s murder, Schulke’s heartrending shot of a tear rolling down the veiled cheek of King’s widow Coretta Scott King illustrated her grief on the April 19, 1968, cover of Life magazine.