COLUMBUS (WCMH) — As part of Black History Month, the Franklin County Commissioners invited a Clintonville man who found himself as the official photographer for a march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in 1965.
NBC4’s Rick Reitzel sat down with him to hear his experiences.
Photographer Allan Zak said he will be 80-years-old this March. He was only 27 when he took pictures of the third Selma March. He said he witnessed too many cases of racial injustice in his travels, so he jumped on a bus to Alabama to be a part of a coming change.
President Lyndon Johnson helped pass the Voting Rights Act shortly after the Selma March.
The first march in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery is called “Bloody Sunday” after state trooper beat, shot and teargassed peaceful marchers. The sounds and images of bullhorns, shots fired and scream from those run down and beaten, can be found on YouTube.
Zak said he arrived in Selma for the third march, and as soon as he stepped off the bus he was assigned to documenting the scene in pictures. He was an organizer in the civil rights movement and said he had a 35 mm camera.
“We organized demonstration to get federal intervention,” after Bloody Sunday, said Zak.
The country and President Lyndon Johnson were so shocked by the films, he had Alabama National Guard troopers federalized to protect the third march.
“Really for me it was a transformative experience to witness this myself,” Allen Zak said.
Zak’s photographs show the disparity between blacks and whites in schools, paved roads, eating establishments and employment.
“What made 26,000 people come out was the injustice and it was just obvious,” Zak said.
For days he went through six rolls of film a day picturing how they were fed, slept, marched and sang, all the while he said hate was always nearby.
“Just think, three weeks earlier these same state troopers were charged with enforcing segregation by all means, including lethal,” Zak said.
His motivation then, “I wasn’t ready to live in a country that allowed an injustice like this.”
Zak said 63 years later, and as a country has made advances, but said he worries about where we are headed.
“I wish people would take a good look at the state of race relations in this country and how it hurts everybody,” he said.