Reliving Civil Rights: A Glimpse of History through “Selma”

Commentary by Brionna Wiggins. Photo Courtesy of

February 26, 2015: History is always depicted as a dull, boring topic. We can read the words in textbooks, recite the dates of events, and study countless hours about things we’ll forget as soon as the unit is over. The names and events are just ink on paper that people usually think so little about. Even when it’s stressed about how important our roots are, and what made today today, does anyone really care? History is just that—past events that happened in the past and nothing like our world today. Only when there is some sort of personal connection or visual representation to help people understand the true feelings that were lost in time, will such things disappear.

“Civil Rights” will always be simply known as the time when African-Americans stood up for their rights. But a more accurate definition would be a time when a mass of Americans realized the injustice of racial segregation and relentlessly defended equal rights among all races. The Civil Rights Movement could also be described as a time of great tension when important issues were sorted out so the future generations could live better lives. All in all, it was a tremendous struggle in a country with questionable unity. “Separate but equal”, was surely separate, yet a lengthy way from the equality our earlier generations lived for, strived for and died for.

To ensure that at least the oldest scholars of the Woodridge Campus knew more about such a history, on Friday the 16th of January, all 7th and 8th graders viewed the movie, Selma. Even though I was sitting up front, if I had paid attention to anything 

other than Selma, I would have surely felt dozens of eyes peering over my head trying to look at the film they were so enthralled with. Literally everyone was actively engaged in the film with no redirection, no disturbances, and absolutely no talking. It was a grand way to spend a Friday, and an even grander experience to watch a wholesome historical movie while staying constantly intrigued the entire time.  Selma was enjoyable for everyone.

Few words can express my appreciation for this movie. Even fewer can describe the absolute horror of racism that flowed throughout the film. At times, a choking disgust climbed its way into my chest as I looked at the old film with the real events that were added into the movie. At another time in the movie, I was blinking back tears in a futile effort to keep them spilling from my eyes as I witnessed the reenactment of deaths not in vain, but still heart-wrenching true stories that helped me admire the undying will within colorful historical figures and unsung participants. The inhumanity of racism left a foul taste, that was thankfully washed away by the worthy outcome of it all.

Likewise, the movie brought a lot of truth to light. One does not simply say or try to explain devastation since such things can only be felt. I myself didn’t even dare to imagine all that ever did happen, and was content with basic acknowledgement. Even afterward, a short melancholy that I was much grateful for relinquished the terrible understatement of history I had experienced for so long. Feelings of bitter disgust, inevitable hate, passionate courage, and reluctant tears assist all those who watched, are watching, or ever will watch the movie ‘Selma’ to help them comprehend the feelings of history left behind. Selma is not just a movie, but a vivid message from the history we take for granted.

Brionna Wiggins is an 8th grade student at the Friendship Woodridge Academy. She will be going to Selma in March to report on the 50th Anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery.