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Alabama event to exhibit rare Spider Martin photos at Beth El Civil Rights Experience

Birmingham’s pivotal and turbulent role in the civil rights movement is well documented and studied throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Launched in 2020, the Beth El Civil Rights Experience is a multimedia project exploring Birmingham’s civil rights history through the lens of the Jewish community and building connections to foster ongoing acts of tikkun olam (repairing the world).
“We’re building this project to provide a thorough, historical perspective on our local Jewish community’s actions and attitudes within the larger civil rights story,” said Margaret Norman, Temple Beth El’s director of programming and engagement, and chair of the Beth El Civil Rights Experience committee.
Thursday, Aug. 25, the Beth El Civil Rights Experience will host Tzofim La’Atid (Looking to the Future), a sneak peek and fundraising event to preview the project.
The event will feature a rare exhibition of some of Alabama photojournalist James “Spider” Martin’s work, which includes 1965 images of the civil rights movement, Bloody Sunday and events that led to the Selma to Montgomery marches.

Beth El Civil Rights Experience in Birmingham from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from guest speakers J. Mason Davis of the law firm Dentons Sirote, DeJuana Thompson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and author T.K. Thorne. The evening will also include docent-led tours of an upcoming exhibition, and drinks, appetizers and networking with the project’s community partners and donors.


The phased project is comprised of current and upcoming elements, including a self-guided TravelStorys audio walking tour; an on-site, interactive exhibit; a documentary short film funded by the Alabama Humanities Alliance; a permanent space for learning, dialogue and reflection; and continued research, education and programming.


In addition, Temple Beth El recently installed and dedicated a new historic marker approved by the Alabama Historical Association commemorating the 1958 attempted bombing of the synagogue. The failed attempt was part of a rash of bombings throughout the 1950s-60s against Black neighborhoods and Jewish institutions in the South intended to halt progress toward ending racial segregation.


“It is our hope that by leveraging existing research and original content, reflecting on how the past is connected to the present and future, and building bridges within the broader community, we’ll spark an ongoing conversation on this subject for generations to come,” said Norman.


To learn more about the Beth El Civil Rights experience, visit templebeth-el.net/CRE. To register to attend Tzofim La’Atid (Looking to the Future), click here.


The Beth El Civil Rights Experience is open to anyone with an interest in civil rights or Jewish history, and welcomes visiting tourist groups, school groups and educators, scholars, researchers and human rights organizations.

The project is made possible by the Alabama Humanities Alliance, Dentons Sirote, the Charles and Esther Lee Kimerling Media Fund (Temple Beth El Foundation), Leslie and Sol Kimerling, Alabama Power, the Maxine and Stanley Lapidus Special Projects Fund (Temple Beth El Foundation), the Tenenbaum/Spielberger Tikkun Olam Fund, the Temple Beth El Men’s Club and the Southern Jewish Historical Society.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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