CHAPEL HILL - You may have heard about the civil-rights marches in Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. Now you can see them in a new book.
Pictures and stories from a young photojournalist's perspective illuminate "Courage in the Moment, The Civil Rights Struggle, 1961-1964," with photos by Jim Wallace and text by Paul Dickson.
The book features 100 photographs of Chapel Hill marches, the 1963 March on Washington and a Ku Klux Klan rally in Orange County, all from the Miranda D 35 mm camera of Wallace while he was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and a photographer for The Daily Tar Heel.
Wallace covered the Chapel Hill movement in depth, working with law enforcement and march organizers to get access to arrests, speeches and march practices.
Mainstream media in the state during that time didn't cover the movement extensively, Wallace said. There were few black students at UNC in 1961, but the ones who were there could not get lunch at the same restaurants on Franklin Street as their classmates, he said. The DTH staff saw the injustice in that, he said.
"It was the hottest political topic going on at the time," he said.
While the newspaper published many of his photos, dozens of other rolls of film sat in storage for decades. Wallace joined the Air Force after graduation, then worked as the director/curator of Imaging and Photographic Services at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
It wasn't until he retired that Wallace sorted through his film. He entered some images in the National Press Club's annual members' photography exhibit and got such a strong reaction, he decided to expand it into a larger exhibit.
That exhibit grew into the book, which follows a march timeline of three years. One of the best things about creating the book, Wallace said, has been the reaction he's received, both from those who were in the movement and the younger generation who have only known it from a distance.
Wallace was able to identify some of the marchers with the help of St. Joseph CME Church on Rosemary Street, which served as a base for the marches and meetings during the 1960s. In 2010 the church hosted an open house for congregants and community members to look at the photos and help identify some of the marchers.
It was the new conversations between generations of the Chapel Hill community prompted by the photos that Wallace says is one of the most important things about the book.
"It really hit us that day at St. Joseph's Church that they were looking at these photographs, and they conveyed a very powerful message to them about what the generation that had preceded them had done to get some of the freedoms they enjoy," Wallace said.
"They knew that there had been civil rights marches, ... [but] they did not know or appreciate what their parents or grandparents had done to help see that there was in fact a public accommodations law."
A local public accommodations law, which would allow blacks to be served in the same establishments as whites, is what civil rights groups were marching for, Wallace said.
The Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen at the time voted down that local ordinance in January 1964, but similar provisions were a part of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed that July.
Wallace's images chronicle marches but also takes readers inside a KKK rally held days after the Civil Rights Act was passed.
Wallace went with another DTH reporter and captured rows of white-robed and hooded men and women, crosses burning into the night, and members throwing burning torches onto the ground surrounding the flaming cross.
It was the only time as a photographer he was worried for his safety, he said.
He and his colleague introduced themselves and were allowed to take pictures without hassle. Wallace says looking back on the event, that the group may have thought he was related to George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama.
"The Klan was making a resurgence, the Civil Rights Act had been passed, they were trying to recruit new members," he said. "They were a really scary group and were not necessarily smartest people in the world. If they had been, they wouldn't have let us come and take those photographs and write the story. I'm glad I did it, and I'd like to think I'd do it again."
Wallace, who live in Falls Church, Va., outside of Washington, says when he gives advice to student journalists today, he encourages them to do the stories that matter, regardless of what they are. It was the determination of a group of student journalists that made the difference in keeping the stories of Chapel Hills marches alive in the United States, he said.
"When I talk to students, I say, 'Look, if you see good stories, you've got to do them, because that's what I did,'" he said.