Essential Pittsburgh: "Selma" Actor Stan Houston Talks Current Events and the Lessons of 1965

Mar 5, 2015

It may not have received the Oscar recognition it could have, but the movie "Selma" is inspiring discussions about the civil rights movement among school-age children and young adults. Actor Stan Houston played Jim Clark, the sheriff of Selma, Alabama in 1965. Houston talks about the impact of the film and what he thinks it will take to move America forward in the aftermath of current events. Asked about how his own background as a Southerner impacted his preparation for the film, Houston explains:

“Well, growing up in the South, everybody’s met ‘the guy.’ .. You know, not specifically, but we know the personality, the attitudes, that we grew up [with] in the South. … I portrayed my old high school coach. … I tried to turn it around -- if Jimmie Lee Jackson had the baton in his hand, and he was able to do to Clark what he was doing to Jimmie Lee in the scene. Reverse the roles, in other words -- carry out his frustrations of being discriminated against, denied the right to vote, just because of the color of his skin. So, I used that as a motivation.”

Also today, a former school teacher and activist remembers marching in Selma, Alabama in 1965. And representatives from the National Aviary discuss an online auction to name one of its African penguin chicks.


An Activist Remembers (starts at 0:00)

In 1965 Linda Elston was a student at Mount Mercy College (now Carlow University). When asked to travel to Alabama to take part in the civil rights marches taking place there, she rallied her fellow students. Today, Linda Wolfson is a retired biology teacher still interested in social justice. She recalls the Alabama civil rights protests.

Naming the Penguin (starts at 10:45)

The National Aviary has launched an online auction to name one of its newest African penguin chicks National Aviary Managing Director Cheryl Tracy, and Chris Gaus, Sr., Aviculturist for the Penguin Point exhibit, explain how this project will benefit not only the aviary, but the also future of the critically endangered species.

"Selma" Actor Talks Current Events and the Lessons of 1965 (starts at 19:55)

Actor Stan Houston describes his experience as part of the film “Selma” and explains the significance of the Selma story to recent events concerning racial prejudice in America.

To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.