San Francisco Public Library Presents the San Francisco Debut of Photographer Matt Herron’s I’m Walkin’ For My Freedom: The Selma March and Voting Rights


For Immediate Release: December 18, 2019

Kate Patterson, San Francisco Public Library (415) 557-4252 /


San Francisco Public Library Presents the San Francisco Debut of Photographer Matt Herron’s I’m Walkin’ For My Freedom: The Selma March and Voting Rights


The exhibition is just one of over 80 unique programs planned for the Library’s More than a Month celebration of Black History

San Francisco – A self-described radical and a conscientious objector during the Korean War, Marin resident Matt Herron, 88, was organizing peace demonstrations and beginning his career as a photojournalist when the sit-ins began in the South. Responding to that challenge, he moved with his family to Jackson, Mississippi in 1963 to join the Civil Rights movement. Under the advisement of his mentor, Dorthea Lange, Herron founded The Southern Documentary Project comprised of five photographers committed to recording the rapid social change taking place. On view February 15 – May 10, 2020 in the Main Library’s Jewett Gallery, I'm Walkin' For My Freedom: The Selma March and Voting Rights is a photographic exhibition of 40 black and white digital pigment prints taken by Herron during the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March.

The spirit on Thursday morning March 25, 1965 was triumphant as more than 25,000 marchers formed up for their entrance into Montgomery. The most significant and celebrated of the era, the demonstration resulted directly in passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year. I’m Walkin is particularly relevant today in light of the current assault on voting rights in the United States. The determination, courage and sacrifices of those activists continue to serve as an example as Americans once again take to the streets in defense of our democratic values.

As Julian Bond famously said, “The Civil Rights movement wasn’t just Rosa sat down, Martin stood up and the white folks came down to save the day.” As Herron remembers, “The heart of the movement was in the ordinary people who made change happen. I’m delighted to bring this exhibition to San Francisco so that the public can experience what it was like to take part in an historic demonstration that drew Americans from all corners of the country and all walks of life. I hope a visit will inspire the same sense of unity felt then.”

Opening Event: Meet photographer Matt Heron, Sunday, Feb. 16, 1:00 p.m., Main Library, Koret Auditorium.

Beginning on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday weekend and all throughout February, San Francisco Public Library champions Black history, culture and heritage with special music, dance, crafts and storytelling events at every branch in the City. This celebration is titled More Than a Month in an effort to emphasize that reflection, open dialogue, interdisciplinary education and shared advocacy needs to take place in our communities during Black History Month, as well as all year round.

The Library’s 2020 More Than a Month programming features more than 80 unique film screenings and literary events for adults, interactive events for teens, hands-on activities for kids and exhibits and music and craft classes for the whole family.

Additionally, visit the African American Center in the Main Library to learn about historical, political and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and beyond. In addition to housing a collection of reference materials spanning a broad range of subject areas, the Center organizes many free exhibits and programs throughout the year. Currently on view is Same Game Different Smokers, an exploration of the troubling relationship the tobacco industry has had with the Black community over the last 400+ years.

About the Artist

Herron studied photography in Rochester as a private student of Minor White, and then worked as a writer and photographer for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. From 1963-65, he pursued three styles of photography: classical photojournalism for the major picture and newsmagazines, documentary photography as practiced by his mentor, Dorothea Lange, and photography as propaganda in the service of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organizations. Often he was able to use news assignments as cover for a more documentary style of work. In 1965, Herron won the World Press Photo Contest for his picture of a Mississippi highway patrolman attacking a five-year-old child. His book, Mississippi Eyes, recounts his time covering the Civil Rights movement.

In New Orleans, Herron began cooperating with District Attorney Jim Garrison, who was investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Herron had flown to Dallas on the day of the assassination, and looking at Dallas police reports with Mississippi eyes, had been among the early skeptics of the Oswald-as-lone-assassin theory. When Garrison lost his case against Clay Shaw, the Herrons left the US for a year-and-a-half sailing voyage to West Africa that carried them down the coast from Mauritania to Ghana. Their book, The Voyage of Aquarius, recounts this journey. A recent book, Our Big Blue Schoolhouse, chronicles that passage in the words of their son, Matthew, who was 13 at the time.

About San Francisco Public Library:

San Francisco Public Library is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center and four bookmobiles.

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January 29, 2020