James "Spider" Martin (April 1, 1939 – April 8, 2003) was an American photographer known for his work documenting the American Civil Rights Movement in 1965, specifically Bloody Sunday and other incidents from the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Martin was born in Fairfield, Alabama. Whilst working as a photographer for The Birmingham News he created a notable photograph of the civil rights era, known as Two Minute Warning, during the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement. His photograph showed Alabama state troopers about to attack the first peaceful Selma to Montgomery march with batons and tear gas whilst it attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on 7 March 1965. Hosea Williams and John Lewis were leading the 54 mile march to the Alabama State Capitol in protest at unfair treatment of African Americans and discriminatory voting rights practices. The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, the media coverage of it and the national outcry that ensued, were influential in the course of civil rights in the U.S. Speaking about the effect of photography on the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Spider, we could have marched, we could have protested forever, but if it weren't for guys like you, it would have been for nothing. The whole world saw your pictures. That's why the Voting Rights Act was passed."
His photographs were published in Life, Saturday Evening Post, Time, Der Spiegel, Stern, Paris Match, Birmingham Weekly and The Birmingham News
The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin acquired Martin’s archive of negatives, correspondence, memos, clippings, and other material in 2015 for $250,000.
He died by suicide on April 8, 2003 in Blount Springs, Alabama.
- Selma 1965: The Photographs of Spider Martin. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1477308394.
- Rotunda, Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
- Agnes, Birmingham, AL.
- Spider Martin Retrospective: Exploring the Role of Photojournalism in Influencing History, Carneal Building, Selma, AL, 2015.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, TX, 2015.
- Selma March 1965, Steven Kasher Gallery, New York, 2015. Photographs by Martin, Charles Moore and James Barker.
- "The World Saw Your Pictures": Spider Martin and the Voting Rights Campaign, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL, 2015.
- Selma to Montgomery: Spider Martin’s Historic Photographs, Archaeology Museum, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, 2015.
- Selma to Montgomery: March for the Right to Vote, Atlanta; and traveled to New Orleans; Montgomery; Washington, D.C.; and Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte, NC, 2015. Curated by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Martin’s photographs are held in the following permanent collections:
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, AL
- National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C.
- Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin, TX