Dr. Martin Luther King, played by David Oyelowo in “Selma,” marches along Selma’s Edmund Pettus bridge for the first march after “Bloody Sunday,” an event that occurred two days earlier and riveted the world’s attention with images of the police brutality against peaceful, unarmed protesters. Now, the marchers, led by Oyelowo’s King, face off against the same state police troopers. Reflecting what did happen in history, the state troopers grandly step aside to let the marchers pass. King kneels in prayer. Everyone alongside and behind him follows suit. Perhaps he kneels, the audience might think, out of gratitude and appreciation, or perhaps to scan the heavens for a sign on whether to move forward. King finishes the prayer, stands up, and moves toward the rear, leading the way back to the church. Most of the crowd seems confused, and the scene in the film that immediately follows is a meeting of mostly younger voices airing their discontent with what looks like King’s utter lack of faith or courage. That day is known by marchers as “Turnaround Tuesday.”
History tells a slightly different story. All of the events of those few days happened as recorded in the movie, except that King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference had planned to go only halfway over the bridge. Going the full distance would have jeopardized a relationship with the only White southern judge who appeared sympathetic to their case. “Selma” dramatically pictures King as a wise general who somehow knows that the state police could be stepping aside as part of a trap — cutting the marchers off from supplies, media, protection, etc. Yet it’s a work of “faction,” a cross between fact and fiction (a term that I mention in the Roots article I penned with Frank Clifford). (1) Although it might have been tempting for King and the marchers to continue on, especially with the state troopers appearing to allow them free passage, King had already determined not to move forward. Lamentably, however, he hadn’t told anyone else beyond SCLC leadership.
This is an important moment because it captures one strand of the film’s DNA about King that is woven through very well. In fact, the film gives a more complex vision of King and the Civil Rights Movement than I’ve seen in most other films.
King, the General and Generous
“Selma” does a remarkable job of highlighting King’s luminaries — his Sun in commanding Capricorn and his Moon in dreamy, sensitive Pisces. The film makes it clear from start to finish that the marches were a strategic part of a Civil Rights Movement, not the furtive, spontaneous pleas of oppressed African Americans for their rights.
Martin Luther King, A data
January 15, 1929
12:00 p.m. CST
33° N45’46” 84° W25’21”
Placidus houses, True Node
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was indeed a general in a movement with many officers and soldiers of every stripe who were never officially decorated or even recognized by history as such. There’s been debate about how much of this African American agency was supported or challenged by U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, especially as presented in the film. (2) However, there’s no question that the movement strategized carefully about the most effective ways to solidify voting rights. (On the books, African Americans already had the right to vote in the Deep South. However, the practice was to frustrate that right with unconstitutional regional and municipal requirements, much like what’s being advanced even now.) (3)
As Oyelowo’s Dr. King prepares to receive the Nobel Prize at the start of the film, he and his wife Coretta Scott King (played by Carmen Ejogo) joke about his promise to her that they would have a quiet life: he would be the pastor of a small Southern town’s church with a few speaking engagements away a year. The awkward moment that ensues between the couple is because they both know the truth — King was never going to be that person. His astrological chart corroborates.
King has his charging Capricorn Sun conjoined his Midheaven. He may not have had exorbitant ambitions, but he was never someone who was going to play it small. In fact, his Sun’s out-of-sign and only slightly wide square to Jupiter and trine to his North Node in the 1st house amply indicate that he was marked to stand out…and to lead. He may not have wanted this life, but the opposition between lofty-minded Saturn, his Sun’s dispositor, and on-the-go Mars indicates that he would likely be a man who would have to learn to do much with a little, to churn his Martian zeal to do many things (Mars in Gemini) into a discipline that prompts deep thought and monumental achievement. “Selma” definitely shows us this King.
The King that America knows best is the one favored by his Moon, the Dreamer, based on the “I Have A Dream” speech he gave to cap the “March on Washington” in August 1963. I memorized and delivered that speech for oratorical contests in grade school. It is the speech we hear most often when we celebrate his birthday or when the spirit of King is invoked to soothe and sort out racial tensions bubbling up in America. The speech was delivered when King was 34 years old. “Selma” captures events during the early part of King’s 36th year of life. He was shot dead at 39. In the span of five short years, the King who delivered that famous, impassioned speech at the Lincoln monument transformed into a different King, one who had a laser-like focus on economic equality and racial justice. (4) Although King’s widely conjoined Moon and exalted Venus in Pisces were dreamy, privately and publicly, and evoked paradisiacal visions of racial harmony, there is another side to Pisces that’s often overlooked. King was not so lofty in his visions for America that he lost sight of the people who were around him daily.
King also had a deep sense of compassion for people’s pain, another thing that this film captures beautifully. I had never given as much thought to the pathos and empathy that King’s chart promises, and I’ve read biographies of Dr. King nearly all of my life. However, the film captured King’s compassion and sense of responsibility for the people who marched with him, like Jimmie Lee Jackson’s grandfather who lost his grandson to senseless police violence. He even had that moderate and gentle composure for those who opposed him, like when he encountered the white man who punched him as King extended his hand to shake his. King didn’t lash out or curse the man. He even admitted the “boy could hit.”
Coretta and Martin
Inner wheel: Martin Luther King (data above)
Outer wheel: Coretta Scott King, AA data
April 27, 1927
4:00 p.m. CST
32° N37’56” 87° W19’09”
Placidus houses, True Node
Another important side of Martin shown in “Selma” is his wife, Coretta. There’s no doubt that King was emotional. However, both he and his fellow Moon-in-Pisces wife, Coretta, lived with the emotional gut churning “fog of death” alluded to in the film. Perhaps the square of King’s Moon to his Saturn in the death-aware 8th house prompted him to acknowledge how death ominously clouded everything around him. However, Coretta’s Moon conjoined his own, so she could feel that cloud along with him, as well as what she felt on her own. There was also deep understanding between them. Her Jupiter conjoined Martin’s Moon and his Jupiter conjoined her Sun. They were bound to experience and expand the emotional and spiritual horizons of the other. Martin and Coretta may have indeed had their differences, especially with Martin’s documented infidelities and his absenteeism from home for the movement, but the film does demonstrate what the astrology confirms — that there was a closeness between them.
There’s no doubt that Selma was a defining moment in King’s relatively short career as a civil rights activist. The Selma marches happened in the aftermath of King’s third Jupiter return and within a year or so of his Saturn square. I consider the third Jupiter return as “Crossing the Threshold,” much like what happens in most three-act films when the protagonist passes the point of no return. At a point like that, it’s time to summon your courage, because the world is asking you if you have what it takes to honor your Jupiter mission in life. This certainly was true for King.
Inner wheel: Martin Luther King (data above)
Outer wheel: Turnaround Tuesday Selma march
March 9, 1965
2:00 p.m. CST
Whole sign houses
Not only did King have a Venus return on “Turnaround Tuesday,” but transiting Saturn was on Venus as well. Likewise, transiting Sun was exactly conjoined King’s natal Moon that day as transiting Mars opposed both. King was definitely in the window of an emotional confrontation with someone or something. Fortunately, transiting Jupiter was in his 1st house while transiting Neptune was in a partile trine to his Moon and the day’s transiting Sun. He had the spiritual foresight to do what, in retrospect, was the wise course of action. Perhaps it wasn’t right for participating marchers to have no clue that he wasn’t going to cross the bridge, though. (This seems to be the foggier side of Neptune’s manifestation.)
Now the story of the march on Selma has been dramatically brought to life, thanks to the pairing of producer Oprah Winfrey and breakout director Ava DuVernay. The film premiered November 11, 2014 at 6 p.m. PST in Hollywood, California for the annual American Film Institute festival. It couldn’t have aired at a more poignant time.
Inner wheel: Turnaround Tuesday Selma march (data above)
Outer wheel: Selma premieres at AFI
November 11, 2014
6:00 p.m. PST
Whole sign houses
Recently, the country has been embroiled in civil and racial unrest over a string of deathly encounters between African Americans and law enforcement officers. The most notable was the August 9th, 2014 death of unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson.
The premiere chart for “Selma” and the charts for the historical Selma marches that the film dramatizes have many outstanding parallels. I’d like to focus briefly on two. The film premiere’s Sun is conjoined by partile degree to the Selma marches’ Neptune at 19° Scorpio. Likewise, the conjunction of Mars, Uranus, and Pluto at the Selma marches has bloomed into a square between the same three planets for the premiere. Likewise, there was a triple conjunction of Mars, Uranus, and Pluto at the Selma marches, and Uranus is square to a Mars-Pluto conjunction at the premiere, i.e, the same three planets are connected at both events.
Neptune is classically the go-to planet for all things fluid, like film and photography. The “Selma” film’s Sun on the historical Selma marches’ Neptune is pure celestial poetry. Neptune becomes the instrument of illumination (Sun) for a period that has only been partly revealed to the public. However, the public did see quite a bit in Selma in 1965, but only on the bridge on “Bloody Sunday.” Neptune was powerful then because photography and film were strategically used to highlight police violence against the protestors. This is clearly visible in the charts for “Turnaround Tuesday” and “Bloody Sunday.” For those charts, transiting Neptune trines the transiting Sun, sextiles Mars, Uranus, and Pluto, and opposes Jupiter.
Inner wheel: Bloody Sunday event
March 7, 1965
2:00 p.m. CST
Whole sign houses
Outer wheel: Turnaround Tuesday Selma march (data above)
For the film’s premiere, Mars and Pluto are conjoined in Capricorn — not too far from the salient 9° Capricorn that Frank and I discuss in the Roots article — but square Uranus. The film premiere captures a moment where the cogent intention of the conjunction of these three planets during the 60’s Civil Rights Movement is now at a crisis point. Will the civil rights gains of yesteryear hold? With so much unrest and racial tension in the country, despite electing America’s first Black president, has there been enough progress and change? It seems the stars and “Selma” are asking these questions while pressing us to remember the past. It’s up to us, however, how we’ll shape the future.
(1) See the current issue of TMA (Feb/March 2015): Alex Haley’s Roots: In Black and White and All the Stars Between by Frank C. Clifford and Samuel Reynolds.
(2) Huffington Post
(3) The Daily Beast
(4) For more on how Dr. King’s vision for America evolved, please see his last book, Where do we go from here: chaos or community? King outlines a different program for America that goes beyond racial justice to economic equality and parity. He also touches on the timely topics of the Vietnam War and the “Black Power” movement.
Bio: Samuel F. Reynolds, a former skeptic, had a life-changing visit to an astrologer and has since spent 23 years doing charts and studying astrology. Now Samuel consults, writes and teaches astrology full-time. He currently serves on the boards of directors for the International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR) and the Astrology News Service, and he’s a co-founder of the International Society of Black Astrologers. He’s also an entrepreneur who helps others build their businesses as mind-body-spirit practitioners. He writes horoscopes for Ebony.com, MySign.com, and Pride, a British Black women’s magazine. His home website is UnlockAstrology.com.