Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


King Center Presents ‘Sisters of Selma’ Documentary

Published January 11, 2007

IMAGE Film & Video and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site DREAM Series will present the documentary “Sisters of Selma” on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the screening room.

The one-hour film, directed by Jayasri Hart, is an unabashedly spiritual take on the Selma, Ala., voting rights marches of 1965 from some of its unsung foot soldiers—Catholic nuns. Sisters from St. Louis, Mo., and around the country answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to join the protests in Selma. Never before in American history had avowed Catholic women made so public a political statement.

Risking personal safety to bring change, the sisters found themselves being changed in turn—and they tell viewers how. Selma blacks testify about the importance of Catholic clergy in their lives and explain why it took until the year 2000 for them to become fully enfranchised.

Newfound dramatic archival footage carries much of the story. In 2003 the director reunited the nuns to let them view themselves and the protests on tape for the first time. Their recorded reactions help narrate the film. Other Selmians, Catholic and Protestant, white and black, give their views on the nuns’ contributions to history. The documentary received partial funding from the Catholic Communication Campaign. “It’s very, very powerful,” said Ellen McCloskey, executive producer of the Catholic Communication Campaign. Not only does the program examine Catholic advocacy in civil rights, it also “addresses some of the changes we were going through in the Catholic Church at the time,” she added.

“Many of the sisters—the women who marched at the time—are still alive,” McCloskey said. “There’s a lot of good archival footage. Then you see them (the sisters) on the screen in the present day, and they look the same.”

Sister Roberta Schmidt, CSJ, former superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, is one of the sisters featured in the film.

The IMAGE 2007 Winter DREAM Series was created in conjunction with the MLK National Historic Site National Park Service. DREAM is an anagram for Developing Racial Equality through Art and Music. These documentary films are programmed with the intent to enlighten and generate an open dialogue about race and other important issues addressed in after-screening discussions.

Screenings are held on the third Thursdays in fall and winter months. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. screening at the MLK National Historic Site, located at 450 Auburn Ave., NE, Atlanta. Admission is free in the visitor parking lot.