Previously Unseen Footage of Selma March Found in Amarillo
When representatives from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) went to collect home videos to digitize in Amarillo, they were excited to see some Texas family footage – maybe a barbecue or a birth or a child's first steps.
But they were even more excited when they stumbled upon a high-quality 16mm home movie of a pivotal point in the civil rights movement: the 1965 Selma, Ala. protest march.
Amarillo resident Joe Jeoffroy brought his father's 1960s home movie collection to TAMI's video roundup to get the films digitized, and he mentioned that one of the videos might contain his father's footage from Selma.
Jeoffroy brought in a lot of films, TAMI director Madeline Moya says, and he lugged them cannister by cannister up the stairs of an Amarillo library. The archivists were initially surprised by how high the quality of the film was.
"The cans were pretty heavy, so it took [Jeoffroy] multiple trips," Moya says. "But he must have been storing them in cool, dry conditions, because they were in really good shape."
Jeoffroy's father Ray, who owned a plow company in Amarillo, had taken most of the films. A lot of the footage was of plows and farms, and Moya says it was valuable, high-quality historical documentation of the Panhandle farming community.
But the fact that there was also historical, on-the-ground footage of a major American event was "really great," Moya says.
The vivid silent footage shows demonstrators gathering outside of Brown Chapel, which at the time was ground zero for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and departing for the march. You can see law enforcement gathering in full force as well. It appears also that Ray Jeoffroy filmed in Selma, went to Montgomery, filmed there, then came back to film in Selma again.
While Joe Jeoffroy himself wasn't sure which Selma march was captured in the video, archivists determined that the color footage was taken on March 21, 1965, at the third nonviolent demonstration march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
"We decided it was the final march because of the number of people there and the relative quiet on the street, it was very controlled with a lot of law enforcement vehicles present and everyone seemed to be cooperating," Moya says. Violence erupted at the first two marches, so by the third, law enforcement presence increased, which is evident in Jeoffroy's video.
Moya says that watching the video is a "refreshing" experience.
"A lot of these images are stirring – you see them in dramas such as Ava DuVernay’s Selma, and while I believe the film is excellent, there was a lot of dramatization. So it was great to just see footage of what it was like there on the ground with no bias, no dramatization."