When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted a haircut while in Birmingham, Alabama, he knew where to go. Often in the 1960s, King would sit down in the chair in a small shop inside an orange-brick building on 8th Avenue North.
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James Armstrong (pictured), the barber and proprietor of Armstrong's Barber Shop, was more than a barber. He was an activist. He was a civil rights foot soldier. He carried the flag at the front of the march on Bloody Sunday in Selma. And his family's lawsuit against Birmingham Public Schools desegregated that system.
Armstrong died in 2009, but his story lives on in the documentary by Robyn Fryday and Gail Dolgin, "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement." It is nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject.
The film tells the story of Armstrong, who had a passion for voting rights advocacy. White stenciled letters in the window of his shop read "If you don't vote. Don't talk politics in here."
In one of the most famous voting marches of our time, Armstrong was out front in 1965, carrying the American flag on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. He had been a flag bearer in the Army, so it seemed only fitting for him to do the honors as marchers set out for Montgomery to demand voting rights at the state capitol.
The marchers were beaten and weren't successful in that first attempt. But they returned later with the support of the federal government and successfully crossed. That march led to the passage and signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
SOURCE: Black America Web