Fifty years ago today people marched in Selma, Alabama, to protest the lack of voting rights for black Americans, and they were teargassed, beaten and had dogs set on them by the local police force. Two days later they were joined by Martin Luther King and thousands of others to continue the fight to end the disenfranchisement of black Americans and to continue the fight for equal rights for all. A total of 25,000 people marched to the state capital a few days later under the protection of federal troopers.
The above is, of course, a vital piece of history in the fight to end racism and I remember seeing the graphic images on television here in the U.K. very well. Just about every newspaper carried page after page about the events of that week, and ‘Life’ magazine and many others were full of horrifying photographs.
Today of course we can look back on those images and they help us to remember the brave fight of others so that we can all walk in freedom. But why, you may ask, am I writing about it here on this blog. It is because of the simple fact that we can look back on those images and remember. I strongly question whether images of the events of today will be as adequately preserved in the digital age in which we live. Fifty years down the road will hard disks still be accessible, will digital film (a contradiction in terms, but I could not think what else to use) still be on file at the TV stations or will it all be lost in hard disc crashes, computer glitches and the need for more and more storage space.
Sadly, I suspect much, if not all, will have gone. At the moment millions of people shoot with their mobile phones and digital cameras without even a thought of downloading anything to a computer let alone backing things up for security. People do not print images like they used to, nor do they make efforts to preserve their memories longer that the life of the telephone they are holding at the time (yes, I know I am generalising) and to put it bluntly it scares me.
I ask just one simple question, will we be relying on distorted oral history like our forefathers in the future?