Spider Martin

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James "Spider" Martin
Spider Martin.jpg
Born(1939-04-01)April 1, 1939
DiedApril 8, 2003(2003-04-08) (aged 64)
Known forTwo Minute Warning

James "Spider" Martin (April 1, 1939 – April 8, 2003) was an American photographer known for his work documenting the American Civil Rights Movement in 1965, specifically Bloody Sunday and other incidents from the Selma to Montgomery marches.[1][2]


Martin was born in Fairfield, Alabama. He was slightly built at 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m) tall and 125 pounds (57 kg), and though he would climb trees and church towers to get a different angle for his photographs,[2] his nickname "Spider" dates back to his school days at Hueytown High, where a reporter described him as moving "like a spider" during one of his touchdown runs on the football field.[3]

Whilst working as a photographer for The Birmingham News[4] he was assigned to cover the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson in February 1965;[3] one month later, he created a notable photograph of the civil rights era, entitled Two Minute Warning, during the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement.[5] His photograph showed Alabama state troopers about to attack the first peaceful Selma to Montgomery march with batons and tear gas just after it had crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma into Dallas County on 7 March 1965.[6] Hosea Williams and John Lewis were leading the planned 54-mile (87 km) march to the Alabama State Capitol in protest at unfair treatment of African Americans and discriminatory voting rights practices.[2] The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, the media coverage of it and the national outcry that ensued, were influential in the course of civil rights in the U.S. Speaking about the effect of photography on the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Spider, we could have marched, we could have protested forever, but if it weren't for guys like you, it would have been for nothing. The whole world saw your pictures. That's why the Voting Rights Act was passed."[3][7]

Martin would join the third march, covering it from start to finish, at the Alabama State Capitol building.[1][2] During the march, Martin took a photograph of an exhausted minister from Maine on the verge of quitting the march. Martin told him "I weigh 125 pounds, my camera bag is 50 pounds, and I [am] walking backwards and shooting pictures" and helped the minister back to his feet.[8][9] After the Selma to Montgomery marches, Martin covered the trial of the murderer of Viola Liuzzo and George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign, reportedly telling the candidate "I won't vote for you, but I'll take your money."[2]

His photographs were published in Life, Saturday Evening Post, Time, Der Spiegel, Stern, Paris Match,[citation needed] Birmingham Weekly[10] and The Birmingham News[2]

He was represented for several years by Black Star, from 1965.[11]

The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin acquired Martin’s archive of negatives, correspondence, memos, clippings, and other material in 2015 for $250,000.[2][5][12]

He died[5] by suicide on April 8, 2003[13] in Blount Springs, Alabama.[12]


  • Martin, Spider; Brinkley, Douglas (introduction); Carleton, Don (foreword) (2015). Selma 1965: The Photographs of Spider Martin. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-1-4773-0839-4. Retrieved 22 February 2017.



Martin’s photographs are held in the following permanent collections:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yeager, Andrew (6 March 2015). "Photographer Helped Expose Brutality Of Selma's 'Bloody Sunday'". NPR. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schuessler, Jennifer (15 February 2015). "Spider Martin's Photographs of the Selma March Get a Broader View". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Roney, Marty (1 March 2015). "'Spider' Martin's work helped to shape American history". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  4. ^ Abbott, Valerie A. (2003-05-06). "Resolution # 684-03" (PDF). Regular Meeting of the Council of the City of Birmingham. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  5. ^ a b c d Pearce, Matt (8 March 2015). "Selma photographer captured history on 'Bloody Sunday'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  6. ^ ""Two Minute Warning," photograph by Spider Martin, March 7, 1965". The National Archives. 7 March 1965. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote". The Spider Martin Civil Rights Collection. Archived from the original on 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2006-01-04.
  8. ^ Benn, Alvin (4 March 2015). "Photojournalist Spider Martin's images still pack a punch". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  9. ^ Martin, Spider (March 1965). "Selma March, 1965". Spider Martin. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Moving pictures - The work of Spider Martin". Birmingham Weekly. Archived from the original on 4 September 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  11. ^ "Spider". Spider Martin. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  12. ^ a b c d "A Guide to the James "Spider" Martin Photographic Archive, Circa 1948-2014". Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin. 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  13. ^ Wilson, Glynn (February 26, 2006). "Birmingham News Glosses over Its Racist Past". The Locust Fork News-Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Briscoe Center Opens Exhibit of Spider Martin's Iconic Civil Rights Photographs April 8, 2014-December 19, 2014" (Press release). Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin. 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Spider Martin Retrospective". ArtsRevive. 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  16. ^ "March to Freedom Exhibit To Open in February" (Press release). Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  17. ^ Corcoran, Kieran (8 March 2015). "Moving vintage photographs capture the tension, tenderndess and violence of Bloody Sunday marches in Selma 50 years ago". Daily Mail. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  18. ^ Harris, Sophie (4 March 2015). "See powerful photos of the 1965 Selma March". TimeOut: New York. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Selma to Montgomery: Spider Martin's Historic Photographs, August 26 - December 11, 2015" (Press release). Archaeology Museum at the University of South Alabama. 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  20. ^ "Selma to Montgomery: The March for the Right to Vote". Levine Museum of the New South. 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  21. ^ Balcerek, Katherine (9 October 2014). "Selma to Montgomery as captured by Spider Martin". Knight Foundation [blog]. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Traveling Exhibitions: Selma to Montgomery". Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  23. ^ "Double Exposure: National Museum Of African American History And Culture Presents New Book Series Based On Photography Collection" (Press release). National Museum Of African American History And Culture, Smithsonian Institution. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2017.

External links[edit]