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Historic footage of 1963 Birmingham, AL protests

Historic footage of 1963 Birmingham, AL protests

On May 3, 1963, in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham Alabama, Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor gave the order to use fire hoses and police dogs against protesters marching for civil rights. The disturbing images created that day by photographers and television cameras are credited with galvanizing support for the movement, not just within the United States, but around the world.

Standing on a corner outside the park, near where the police and fire departments were staging their move against the protesters, was Birmingham news anchor Harry Mabry. He had a 16mm camera with him and shot just under two minutes of black and white footage that day. It was kept in his collection of home movies and audition reels ever since. The Mabrys were so disturbed by the images they never showed the film to their children.

Fast forward to 2014, and one of Mabry's sons asked us to scan the 16mm films. The footage of the brutal police crackdown at Kelly Ingram Park is indeed disturbing. In it, we see Bull Connor walking through the closed off streets, fire trucks moving into position, police escorting large dogs towards the park. When the fire hoses are turned on, it becomes immediately apparent how intense the water pressure must have been, because the stream is nearly straight for 100 feet.

The footage of that day in Birmingham is in excellent condition, having been viewed infrequently. It's possible it was aired on the local news at the time, but it's also just as likely that the film has never been seen outside of a small group of people. It's extremely rare to find footage like this, but it's out there - in private collections and amongst boxes of home movies. What's worth noting is that this is an original "document" of a historic event - the actual film that was in the camera when those events unfolded, and is truly one of a kind.

We want to thank Mark Mabry for allowing us to feature some still images from this reel. If you're interested in finding out more about this footage, please contact us and we will put you in touch with Mark.