In a perfect world, the movie would exist uniquely as a representation of darker days long since past. However, ‘Selma’ displays the evolution of urban change and conflict while gleaming a spotlight on the slow growth of that which has not changed. The movie’s story offers a blueprint not only on the past events, but of the way forward in terms of urban change and conflict.
The movie ‘Selma’ of course did not happen in a vacuum. The mass movement against Jim Crow apartheid, for the right to vote and equal rights in public accommodations, had been growing for almost a decade, ever since the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. However, the early 1960s witnessed the Freedom Rides and lunch counter sit-in movement against segregation on interstate bus transportation1. This movement for equity and democratic rights was made possible by the struggle of the working class of the 1940s and 1930s that preceded it.
The Urban crisis is jarringly evident in the shattered storefronts and fire-blemished African apartments in the movie. Rates of poverty among these black residents are very high. With a few expectations, most of them have witnessed loss of manufacturing job and the arrival of a low-wage service sector. Most of the streets that are revealed in the movie have ghettos that are characterized by extreme spatial isolation and segregation. This means that central-city residence, joblessness, race, and poverty were intertwined in the urban areas. It can be noted that patterns of racial and class segregation in the cities in America had continued and hardened. As evident from the movie, racial conflict and tension as a tenacious refrain in the people living in the urban areas. Discrimination by race and color was a key fact of life in the urban areas of America in the 1950s and 60s.
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