Selma's Impact Felt Amid Modern Race Tensions

Greg Milam, US Correspondent

The people of a small Alabama city will be paying extra attention to Sunday's Oscars.

The movie Selma, the story of the bitter fight for voting rights in America's Deep South, is one of the films in the running for best picture.

The Academy has been criticised for not handing more nominations to the movie - its British star David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay were snubbed - but few people in the city of Selma can be heard complaining.

Survivors of those history-making days in 1965, which eventually saw Martin Luther King leading the civil rights protests, say America should be using them as a lesson in dealing with modern day racial tension.

At 15, Linda Blackmon Lowery was the youngest protest marcher and remembers the brutality handed out by police on the city's Edmund Pettus Bridge - scenes that shocked the country.

She said: "If I had not got beaten on that bridge, if I had not gone to jail, all those things served to make me a better person."

The country, rocked by crises in places like Ferguson, Missouri, needs to believe again in Dr King's mantra of non-violence, she said.

"The problem is just going to get bigger and bigger and I think there is a solution to every problem. I think that we as human beings have the capability, the ability, to actually solve those problems."

Selma, a former cotton port of 20,000 people in what's known as the Black Belt, has the feel of a place that has changed little since the 1960s. It is now dotted with memorials to its place in history and those who died in the struggle.

Almost completely unchanged is the house where Dr King lived during the weeks of strife in Selma.

Its owner, Jawana Jackson, whose parents were old friends of the civil rights leader, has pictures of herself bouncing on his knee as a child in 1965. She hopes the house will become a memorial to the peace movement.

"We should never forget and we should always strive to educate those as to how this world can be a better place. That is what this house was put here for, I firmly believe.

"Selma, I know, has played a huge part in the reason America is what it is today."

The Brown AME Chapel, where Dr King preached during his time in Selma, is also little changed.

As well as services, it now hosts tour groups from across Alabama, many of whom lived through the civil rights struggle.

DuVernay recently attended events in the city along with members of the cast. She says the Oscar snub reflects bigger issues than just her film.

She told Sky News: "This is a systemic issue, it is industry wide and decades old, and my hope and prayer is that this talk around Selma, inclusion and exclusion, representation and diversity, really triggers true change and not just sound-bites."

Professor Darnell Hunt, an expert on race and the media at UCLA, points out the Academy's issue more bluntly.

"The membership is 90-something per cent white, 70-something per cent male, average age 63, so what we got in terms of nominations was a reflection of that taste culture," Dr Hunt said.

"It is finally becoming obvious to people, those who make the decisions in the industry, that this approach to business is unsustainable."