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How Selma's 'Bloody Sunday' Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

How Selma's 'Bloody Sunday' Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

Nearly a century after the Confederacy’s guns fell silent, the racial legacies of slavery and Reconstruction continued to reverberate loudly throughout Alabama in 1965. On March 7, 1965, when then-25-year-old activist John Lewis led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and faced brutal attacks by oncoming state troopers, footage of the violence collectively shocked the nation and galvanized the fight against racial injustice.

The passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 months earlier had done little in some parts of the state to ensure African Americans of the basic right to vote. Perhaps no place was Jim Crow’s grip tighter than in Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up more than half of the population, yet accounted for just 2 percent of registered voters.

For months, the efforts of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register Black voters in the county seat of Selma had been thwarted. In January 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to the city and gave the backing of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) to the cause. Peaceful demonstrations in Selma and surrounding communities resulted in the arrests of thousands, including King, who wrote to the New York Times, “This is Selma, Alabama. There are more negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls.”

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

The rising racial tensions finally bubbled over into bloodshed in the nearby town of Marion on February 18, 1965, when state troopers clubbed protestors and fatally shot 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, an African American demonstrator trying to protect his mother, who was being struck by police.

In response, civil rights leaders planned to take their cause directly to Alabama Governor George Wallace on a 54-mile march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Although Wallace ordered state troopers “to use whatever measures are necessary to prevent a march,” approximately 600 voting rights advocates set out from the Brown Chapel AME Church on Sunday, March 7.

King, who had met with President Lyndon Johnson two days earlier to discuss voting rights legislation, remained back in Atlanta with his own congregation and planned to join the marchers en route the following day. By a coin flip, it was determined that Hosea Williams would represents the SCLC at the head of the march along with Lewis, a SNCC chairman and future U.S. congressman from Georgia.

The demonstrators marched undisturbed through downtown Selma, where the ghosts of the past constantly permeated the present. As they began to cross the steel-arched bridge spanning the Alabama River, the marchers who gazed up could see the name of a Confederate general and reputed grand dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, Edmund Pettus, staring right back at them in big block letters emblazoned across the bridge’s crossbeam.

Once Lewis and Williams reached the crest of the bridge, they saw trouble on the other side. A wall of state troopers, wearing white helmets and slapping billy clubs in their hands, stretched across Route 80 at the base of the span. Behind them were deputies of county sheriff Jim Clark, some on horseback, and dozens of white spectators waving Confederate flags and giddily anticipating a showdown. Knowing a confrontation awaited, the marchers pressed on in a thin column down the bridge’s sidewalk until they stopped about 50 feet away from the authorities.

“It would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march,” Major John Cloud called out from his bullhorn. “This is an unlawful assembly. You have to disperse, you are ordered to disperse. Go home or go to your church. This march will not continue.”

“Mr. Major,” replied Williams, “I would like to have a word, can we have a word?”

“I’ve got nothing further to say to you,” Cloud answered.

Williams and Lewis stood their ground at the front of the line. After a few moments, the troopers, with gas masks affixed to their faces and clubs at the ready, advanced. They pushed back Lewis and Williams. Then the troopers paced quickened. They knocked the marchers to the ground. They struck them with sticks. Clouds of tear gas mixed with the screams of terrified marchers and the cheers of reveling bystanders. Deputies on horseback charged ahead and chased the gasping men, women and children back over the bridge as they swung clubs, whips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. Although forced back, the protestors did not fight back.

Lewis later testified in court that he was knocked to the ground and a state trooper then hit him in the head with a nightstick. When Lewis shielded his head with a hand, the trooper hit Lewis again as he tried to get up.

Weeks earlier, King had scolded Life magazine photographer Flip Schulke for trying to assist protestors knocked to the ground by authorities instead of snapping away. “The world doesn’t know this happened because you didn’t photograph it,” King told Schulke, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Race Beat.

This time, however, television cameras captured the entire assault and transformed the local protest into a national civil rights event. It took hours for the film to be flown from Alabama to the television network headquarters in New York, but when it aired that night, Americans were appalled at the sights and sounds of “Bloody Sunday.”

READ MORE: When Did African Americans Get the Right to Vote?

Around 9:30 p.m., ABC newscaster Frank Reynolds interrupted the network’s broadcast of “Judgment at Nuremberg”—the star-studded movie that explored Nazi bigotry, war crimes and the moral culpability of those who followed orders and didn’t speak out against the Holocaust—to air the disturbing, newly arrived footage from Selma. Nearly 50 million Americans who had tuned into the film’s long-awaited television premier couldn’t escape the historical echoes of Nazi storm troopers in the scenes of the rampaging state troopers. “The juxtaposition struck like psychological lightning in American homes,” wrote Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff in The Race Beat.

The connection wasn’t lost in Selma, either. When his store was finally empty of customers, one local shopkeeper confided to Washington Star reporter Haynes Johnson about the city’s institutional racism, “Everybody knows it’s going on, but they try to pretend they don’t see it. I saw ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ on the Late Show the other night and I thought it fits right in; it’s just like Selma.”

Outrage at “Bloody Sunday” swept the country. Sympathizers staged sit-ins, traffic blockades and demonstrations in solidarity with the voting rights marchers. Some even traveled to Selma where two days later King attempted another march but, to the dismay of some demonstrators, turned back when troopers again blocked the highway at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Finally, after a federal court order permitted the protest, the voting rights marchers left Selma on March 21 under the protection of federalized National Guard troops. Four days later, they reached Montgomery with the crowd growing to 25,000 by the time they reached the capitol steps.

The events in Selma galvanized public opinion and mobilized Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965. Today, the bridge that served as the backdrop to “Bloody Sunday” still bears the name of a white supremacist, but now it is a symbolic civil rights landmark.

READ MORE: The MLK Graphic Novel That Inspired John Lewis and Generations of Civil Rights Activists


Mongomery, Selma and Birmingham: Turning Points of the Civil Rights Movement

Commemorate the triumphs and tragedies of the Civil Rights movement in Alabama by exploring the poignant past of three communities critical to the movement. In Montgomery, see the pulpits and bus stops from which MLK and Rosa Parks inspired thousands. Walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma where John Lewis and other activists were attacked on “Bloody Sunday.” Visit Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, a pivotal flashpoint after the deadly bombing that killed four young girls. Visit other influential museums and monuments to Freedom Riders, victims of lynching, and voters' rights activists, all while meeting key organizers active in the 1950s and ’60s.


Bloody Sunday memorial honors late civil rights giants

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The commemoration of a pivotal moment in the fight for voting rights for African Americans is honoring four giants of the civil rights movement who lost their lives in 2020, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and also highlighting the continued fight for voting rights.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday &mdash the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma&rsquos Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton are the late civil rights leaders being honored on Sunday.

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year&rsquos commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

&ldquoThose of us who are still living, particularly the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done,&rdquo said former state Sen. Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the annual celebration.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events are being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group&rsquos founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

&ldquoThe movement is not over,&rdquo he said as people in their cars honked in support. &ldquoWhat we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.&rdquo

Others spoke via video link or in prerecorded messages. President Joe Biden appeared via a prerecorded message in which announced an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

&ldquoEvery eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted,&rdquo Biden said in the message. &ldquoIf you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.&rdquo

The two newly elected U.S. senators from Georgia &mdash Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff &mdash also spoke by video. Warnock remembered Lewis, whom he called both a mentor and an inspiration and spoke about the current conflict over voting access.

&ldquoSadly there are forces at work in our country right now especially in my home state of Georgia who are trying to push back against voting rights,&rdquo he said.

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

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Bloody Sunday memorial honors late civil rights giants
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FILE - In this March 4, 2012, file photo, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of the "Bloody Sunday" Selma to Montgomery civil rights march across the bridge in Selma, Ala. The March 7, 2021, Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020. (AP Photo/Kevin Glackmeyer, File)
SELMA, Ala. (AP) &mdash The commemoration of a pivotal moment in the fight for voting rights for African Americans is honoring four giants of the civil rights movement who lost their lives in 2020, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and also highlighting the continued fight for voting rights.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday &mdash the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma&rsquos Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton are the late civil rights leaders being honored on Sunday.

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year&rsquos commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

Youtube video thumbnail
&ldquoThose of us who are still living, particularly the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done,&rdquo said former state Sen. Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the annual celebration.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events are being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group&rsquos founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

&ldquoThe movement is not over,&rdquo he said as people in their cars honked in support. &ldquoWhat we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.&rdquo

Others spoke via video link or in prerecorded messages. President Joe Biden appeared via a prerecorded message in which announced an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

&ldquoEvery eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted,&rdquo Biden said in the message. &ldquoIf you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.&rdquo

The two newly elected U.S. senators from Georgia &mdash Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff &mdash also spoke by video. Warnock remembered Lewis, whom he called both a mentor and an inspiration and spoke about the current conflict over voting access.

&ldquoSadly there are forces at work in our country right now especially in my home state of Georgia who are trying to push back against voting rights,&rdquo he said.

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 &mdash a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Organizers acknowledged the fallen civil rights leaders and planned to lay wreaths at the bridge in their honor.

The march across the Selma bridge was sparked by events in nearby Marion, where a Black man had been killed by a white Alabama state trooper during peaceful protests for voting rights. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was shot while trying to protect his mother from being hurt and died eight days later. In response, activists in Marion and Selma gathered for a march on March 7, their goal the state capital in Montgomery.

Although the Jackson case occurred in 1965, it has particular resonance in 2021 as the state of Minnesota prepares to try former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death George Floyd, an African American. Floyd died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee onto Floyd&rsquos neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground in handcuffs, saying he couldn&rsquot breathe. Body camera footage indicates Chauvin&rsquos knee was on Floyd&rsquos neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.


Bloody Sunday – March 7, 1965: Marching for the Right to Vote

It is the evening of March 7, 1965. You and your family, along with 50 million other Americans, are watching the highly-anticipated television premiere of “Judgment at Nuremberg,” a film that explores the decisions of Nazis who followed orders instead of speaking out against the Holocaust. All of a sudden, the movie is interrupted. Instead of the film, you see White state troopers beating unarmed Black men and women. Where is this? What is happening?

Explanation

The footage you are seeing was taken earlier that day in Selma, Alabama, where state troopers and law enforcement officers beat and tear-gassed activists peacefully protesting for their right to vote. The violent event becomes known as Bloody Sunday.

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday took place on March 7, 1965, when about 600 demonstrators attempted to march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were protesting the recent death of protester Jimmie Lee Jackson and rampant voter suppression of Black citizens in Alabama. Authorities halted the march by beating and tear-gassing peaceful protesters. Bloody Sunday roused national outrage about voter suppression in the South and raised support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The History

By January 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, had made Selma, Alabama, a center of their voting rights campaign. Though suppression of Black voters was rampant throughout the South, it was particularly widespread in Alabama. During the first months of 1965, peaceful demonstrations in Selma and the surrounding towns led to thousands of arrests. On February 16, one such protest became violent when state troopers beat demonstrators and fatally shot 26-year-old Black church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson.

In response, activists began planning to march the 54 miles from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery to protest Jackson’s death and voter suppression. The march was scheduled for Sunday, March 7. SCLC member Hosea Williams and SNCC chair and future Congressman John Lewis led the 600 protesters. King was in Atlanta and planned to join the next day.

The protesters marched through Selma, but when they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they encountered a blockade of state troopers armed with clubs and tear gas. As the protesters approached, Major John Cloud warned them to disperse, saying, “It would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march.” When Williams and Lewis refused to turn back, the state troopers advanced. They knocked protesters over, struck them with clubs, whips, and rubber tubing wrapped with barbed wire, and tear-gassed them. The protesters did not fight back. Fifty were hospitalized, including Lewis, who was severely beaten on the head.

Television cameras recorded the scene, and footage of the violence aired that night. The juxtaposition of the Nazis’ brutality and the violence displayed by law enforcement in their own country struck millions of Americans. The scene incited outrage and inspired solidarity sit-ins and protests across the country.

So What?

It took two more tries for the protesters to reach Montgomery. By the time they did so, on March 25, 1965, their numbers had swelled to 25,000. Thousands had been inspired to come to Selma to join the march, prompted in part by the horrifying violence they saw on Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday and the ensuing demonstrations increased national awareness of and outrage about voter suppression in the South. Protesters’ advocacy led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law on August 6, 1965.


Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee to honor civil rights icons

DETROIT (AP) — Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. was a young activist emerging from the 1961 sit-ins and Freedom Rides that fought for Black civil rights and an end to racial segregation when he received his next assignment.

It was one that would help change the course of American history.

“I looked on the blackboard and they had an ’X’ through Selma,” Lafayette, now 80, recalled in an interview with The Associated Press, referring to the Alabama city that would become emblematic of the fight to secure Black voting rights and the 1965 marches that were a turning point in that struggle.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youth civil rights arm, had sent two teams to scout out the city.

“Both teams came back and said ‘No, we’re not going to Selma,’” Lafayette said. “And they gave the same reason: ‘The white folks were too mean and the Black folks were too scared.'”

“But I was determined,” said Lafayette. At 22, he was painfully aware of the risk after being badly beaten by a white mob in Montgomery, Alabama, while taking part in Freedom Ride protests there against segregated bus terminals.

– Drew Glover, the jubilee’s principal coordinator

“I’ll go to Selma,” he recalled saying — words that would place him in the middle of the movement to register Black voters and eventually the 1965 Selma marches.

Sunday marks the 56th anniversary of those marches and “Bloody Sunday,” when more than 500 demonstrators gathered on March 7, 1965, to demand the right to vote and cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were met by dozens of state troopers and many were severely beaten.

The attack, broadcast on national television, captured the attention of millions and became a symbol of the brutal racism Black Americans endured across the South. Two weeks later, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of civil rights protesters marched the 49 miles from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery — an event that prompted Congress to eventually pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year’s Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of civil rights icons Congressman John Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020.

It will also be largely virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, and comes at a time when the nation is still reckoning with the convergence of three crises that have disparately impacted Black Americans — the pandemic, its ensuing economic fallout and the racial injustice movement.

Organizers, activists and civil rights leaders say this year’s event, to be held Friday through Sunday, will honor the memory of civil rights legends and marchers and serve as a rallying cry and reminder that the fight for racial equity must continue.

“Our young people must continue the movement and you’ve got to keep moving in order to bring about that change,” Lafayette said.

This year’s theme, “Beyond the Bridge: People Power, Political Power, Economic Power,” will also provide live workshops and training to help the next generation of organizers, said Drew Glover, the jubilee’s principal coordinator.

It will feature performances and events honoring civil rights legends and also the “foot soldiers,” whose names are lesser known. It will culminate in a virtual bridge crossing, featuring local and national leaders.

– Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez

“The issues that we’re dealing with today, with voter suppression, white supremacy, intimidation, the Capitol insurrection — these are all issues that our ancestors have been organizing for, for generations,” Glover said.

“We’re binding that connection between the struggles of 1965 and before, and where we are now in 2021, so that we can activate the next generation of people to pass that torch.”

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a member of the jubilee’s honorary committee, believes one way to honor that struggle is to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to strengthen protections granted under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and protect against racial discrimination and voter suppression.

Separately, the House of Representatives is poised to vote on sweeping voting and ethics legislation, House Resolution 1, that if enacted would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in a generation.

It would touch virtually every aspect of the electoral process — striking down hurdles to voting erected in the name of election security, curbing partisan gerrymandering and curtailing the influence of big money in politics.

Acting on former President Donald Trump’s repeated false claims of a stolen election, dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures are pushing bills that would make it more difficult to vote. Democrats and activists argue this would disproportionately impact voters of color and low-income voters.

“If we do believe in what John Lewis stood for, of what Joe Lowery or C.T. Vivian fought for, then if that’s what we believe, then we will restore the efficacy of their efforts,” Clyburn said.

The Selma commemoration is also a way for other people of color and allies to support the civil rights movement. Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, is a slated speaker.

“This is not a once-in-a-while type of work that we have to do our commitment to social and racial justice has to be one of a lifetime,” the 90-year-old Huerta told the AP.

“The Pettus Bridge is a very symbolic moment in time and history and shows us that we have to continue to march and not give up — even when we’re beaten or knocked down.”

Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project and a key organizer for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, will deliver a special invocation, a reminder that the civil rights struggle is interwoven among people of color, including Indigenous communities.

“It’s just been metastasizing in this country, it’s never gone away,” Iron Eyes said, of the nation’s legacy of racism and oppression.

“This country was founded on genocide and slavery. We call it the civil rights struggle but it’s also just a struggle to draft a new social contract, to change the way that we live with each other in this country.”

The Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, a multiracial coalition working to lift millions out of poverty and oppression, notes the intersection of the fight for voting rights and economic justice.

“We have to talk about what is our Selma today. And today our Selma is to expand voting rights, restore the Voting Rights Act fully, raise the minimum wage to a living wage and pass universal health care for all,” Barber said.

“Every generation has it’s Selma and these are the things that make up our Selma today.”


In Selma, Alabama, Bloody Sunday memorial to honor late civil rights giants

The commemoration of a pivotal moment in the fight for voting rights for African Americans will honor four giants of the civil rights movement who lost their lives in 2020, including the late US Rep. John Lewis.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will mark the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton are the late civil rights leaders who will be honored on Sunday.

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year’s commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

“Those of us who are still living, particularly the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done,” says former state Sen. Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the annual celebration.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events are being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast will be held as a drive-in event. The Rev. Bernard LaFayette, Martin Luther King III and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter will speak at the breakfast.

US President Joe Biden will appear via a pre-recorded message in which he will announce an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

US Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and US Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will also deliver remarks by video.

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a US Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 — a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

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Bloody Selma: A Watershed Moment in the Civil Rights Movement

In 1965 a series of events in Alabama inspired a watershed moment in the Civil Rights Movement, the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

Early in the year, civil rights activists launched a voter-registration campaign in Selma, where fewer than 1% of eligible blacks were registered to vote. They were confronted by Dallas County sheriff, Jim Clark, and his deputized citizens’ posse who rounded up civil rights activists using gestapo tactics and cattle prods.

On the night of February 18th, State troopers savagely attacked Vivian and other demonstrators. In the chaos, a young man named Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot at point blank range in what the local newspaper called “a nightmare of state police stupidity.”

The tragedy galvanized the Selma voting rights campaign. James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference proposed a symbolic march from Selma to the Alabama state capital in Montgomery—more than fifty miles away.

On March 7, 1965, SNCC’s John Lewis and the SCLC’s Hosea Williams led a procession of more than 500 marchers over the Edmund Pettus bridge. The demonstrators were met by Alabama State troopers—clad in gas masks and bearing riot gear.

When the marchers refused to disperse, State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. News cameras immortalized a hellish scene of police brutality and chaos. The event, which became known as “Bloody Sunday” shocked the nation. Time Magazine reported that, “Rarely in human history has public opinion reacted so spontaneously and with such fury.”

Two weeks later, Martin Luther King led more than three thousand demonstrators in a repeat of the “Bloody Sunday” march. The events in Selma inspired President Johnson to convene a joint session of Congress. The President invoked images of the American Revolution and Civil War. “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For with a country as with a person, 'What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"

25,000 demonstrators participated in the Selma to Montgomery march. Ten years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott christened the Civil Rights Movement, the crusade was at its zenith: unified, triumphant and non-violent.

Martin Luther King addressed the crowd in Montgomery, saying “I know you’re asking today, how long will it take. How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. How long? Not long, because mine eyes have seen the glory. ”

But even as King reassured the faithful that their goal was within reach, divisions between the “old guard” and young militants within SNCC threatened to splinter the movement itself.

The story of the Selma campaign and the Civil Rights Movement are documented in "The Civil Rights Movement"—watch it in the Streaming Room™.


Bloody Sunday memorial to honor late civil rights giants

FILE – In this March 4, 2012, file photo, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of the “Bloody Sunday” Selma to Montgomery civil rights march across the bridge in Selma, Ala. The March 7, 2021, Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020. (AP Photo/Kevin Glackmeyer, File)

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — The commemoration of a pivotal moment in the fight for voting rights for African Americans will honor four giants of the civil rights movement who lost their lives in 2020, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will mark the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton are the late civil rights leaders who will be honored on Sunday.

Bloody Sunday became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

  • FILE – In this March 7, 1965, file photo, a state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, right foreground, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala. The March 7, 2021, Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020. (AP Photo/File)
  • FILE – In this March 4, 1990, file photo, civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the recreation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Selma, Ala. From left are Hosea Williams of Atlanta, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Evelyn Lowery, SCLC President Joseph Lowery and Coretta Scott King. This Sunday, March 7, 2021, marks the 56th anniversary of those marches and “Bloody Sunday,” when more than 500 demonstrators gathered on March 7, 1965, to demand the right to vote and cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were met by dozens of state troopers and many were severely beaten. (AP Photo/Jamie Sturtevant, File)
  • FILE – In this March 7, 2015, file photo, President Barack Obama, center, walks as he holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten during “Bloody Sunday,” as the first family and others including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left of Obama, walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a landmark event of the civil rights movement. From front left are Marian Robinson, Sasha Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Obama, Boynton and Adelaide Sanford, also in wheelchair. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
  • FILE – In this Sept. 17, 2020, file photo, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, of S.C., shields his eyes from a television light during a news conference about COVID-19, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Clyburn, a member of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee’s honorary committee, believes one way to honor the memory of Lewis and others is to enact the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to strengthen protections granted under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and protect against racial discrimination and vote suppression. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
  • FILE – In this July 28, 2016, file photo, civil rights leader Dolores Huerta speaks during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Huerta, a co-founder of the United Farmworkers with Cesar Chavez, is a slated speaker for the 2021 Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
  • FILE – In this Jan. 4, 2012, file photo, civil rights activist C.T. Vivian sits at his home in Atlanta. This Sunday, March 7, 2021, marks the 56th anniversary of the Selma marches and “Bloody Sunday,” when more than 500 demonstrators gathered on March 7, 1965, to demand the right to vote and cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. The March 7, 2021, Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of John Lewis, as well as the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
  • FILE – In this March 4, 1990, file photo, Coretta Scott King walks arm-in-arm with Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery, second from right, in Selma, Ala., as marchers begin the final leg of their trek to the Alabama Capitol. The March 7, 2021, Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be the first without the towering presence of John Lewis, as well as Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian and attorney Bruce Boynton, who all died in 2020. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
  • FILE – In this April 4, 2012, file photo, civil rights activists and Southern Christian Leadership Conference members from left, Ralph Worrell, Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., C.T. Vivian and Frederick Moore, join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome” at the Atlanta gravesite of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., marking the 44th anniversary of his assassination. This Sunday, March 7, 2021, marks the 56th anniversary of the Selma marches and “Bloody Sunday,” when more than 500 demonstrators gathered on March 7, 1965, to demand the right to vote and cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

This year’s commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

“Those of us who are still living, particularly the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done,” said former state Sen. Hank Sanders, one of the founders of the annual celebration.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events are being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast will be held as a drive-in event. The Rev. Bernard LaFayette, Martin Luther King III and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter will speak at the breakfast.

U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock of Georgia and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will also deliver remarks by video.

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 — a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Trademark and Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Bloody Sunday memorial in Selma honors late civil rights giants

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of the "Bloody Sunday" Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in 2012. (Photo: Kevin Glackmeyer, AP)

Selma, Ala. — Activists who gathered virtually and in person to commemorate a pivotal day in the civil rights struggle that became known as Bloody Sunday called on people to continue the fight for voting rights as they also honored giants of the civil rights movement, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died last year.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton were the late civil rights leaders honored on Sunday.

The day became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In this March 7, 1965, photo, a state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, right foreground, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to break up a civil rights voting march in Selma, Ala. (Photo: unknown, AP)

Civil rights figures lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the recreation of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Selma, Ala. in 1990. From left are Hosea Williams of Atlanta, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Evelyn Lowery, SCLC President Joseph Lowery and Coretta Scott King. (Photo: Jamie Sturtevant, AP)

This year’s commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

Many speakers throughout the day's events emphasized the need for continued activism to protect voting access.

“Voter suppression is still alive and well," said U.S. Rep. Teri Sewell, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District which includes Selma. “It reminds us that progress is elusive and every generation must fight and fight again.”

Sewell spoke during a video that featured comments from activists, mayors, members of Congress and others about the historic anniversary. Later, organizers played video footage of activists, many who had been part of the original Bloody Sunday events in 1965, crossing the bridge once again. They wore masks and in keeping with social distancing requirements designed to stop the coronavirus, spread out across the bridge as they walked.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events were held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this March 4, 1990, file photo, Coretta Scott King walks arm-in-arm with Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Joseph Lowery, second from right, in Selma, Ala., as marchers begin the final leg of their trek to the Alabama Capitol. (Photo: Dave Martin, AP)

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group's founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

“The movement is not over," he said as people in their cars honked in support. “What we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.”

Others spoke via video link or in prerecorded messages. President Joe Biden appeared via a prerecorded message, in which he announced an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted,” Biden said. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In this March 7, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama, center, walks as he holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten during "Bloody Sunday," as the first family and others including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left of Obama, walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday." (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 — a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Organizers acknowledged the fallen civil rights leaders and planned to lay wreaths at the bridge in their honor.

Civil rights activists and Southern Christian Leadership Conference members from left, Ralph Worrell, Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr., C.T. Vivian and Frederick Moore, join hands and sing "We Shall Overcome" at the Atlanta gravesite of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., marking the 44th anniversary of his assassination in 2012. (Photo: David Goldman, AP)

The march across the Selma bridge was sparked by events in nearby Marion, where a Black man had been killed by a white Alabama state trooper during peaceful protests for voting rights. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was shot while trying to protect his mother from being hurt and died eight days later. In response, activists in Marion and Selma gathered for a march on March 7, their goal the state capital in Montgomery.

Although the Jackson case occurred in 1965, it has particular resonance in 2021 as the state of Minnesota prepares to try former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, an African American. Floyd died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground in handcuffs, saying he couldn’t breathe. Body camera footage indicates Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.


Bloody Sunday memorial in Selma honors late civil rights giants

Selma, Ala. — Activists who gathered virtually and in person to commemorate a pivotal day in the civil rights struggle that became known as Bloody Sunday called on people to continue the fight for voting rights as they also honored giants of the civil rights movement, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died last year.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton were the late civil rights leaders honored on Sunday.

The day became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year’s commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

Many speakers throughout the day’s events emphasized the need for continued activism to protect voting access.

“Voter suppression is still alive and well,” said U.S. Rep. Teri Sewell, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District which includes Selma. “It reminds us that progress is elusive and every generation must fight and fight again.”

Sewell spoke during a video that featured comments from activists, mayors, members of Congress and others about the historic anniversary. Later, organizers played video footage of activists, many who had been part of the original Bloody Sunday events in 1965, crossing the bridge once again. They wore masks and in keeping with social distancing requirements designed to stop the coronavirus, spread out across the bridge as they walked.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events were held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group’s founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

“The movement is not over,” he said as people in their cars honked in support. “What we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.”

Others spoke via video link or in prerecorded messages. President Joe Biden appeared via a prerecorded message, in which he announced an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted,” Biden said. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 — a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Organizers acknowledged the fallen civil rights leaders and planned to lay wreaths at the bridge in their honor.

The march across the Selma bridge was sparked by events in nearby Marion, where a Black man had been killed by a white Alabama state trooper during peaceful protests for voting rights. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was shot while trying to protect his mother from being hurt and died eight days later. In response, activists in Marion and Selma gathered for a march on March 7, their goal the state capital in Montgomery.

Although the Jackson case occurred in 1965, it has particular resonance in 2021 as the state of Minnesota prepares to try former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, an African American. Floyd died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck while Floyd was held face-down on the ground in handcuffs, saying he couldn’t breathe. Body camera footage indicates Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.


Bloody Sunday memorial honors late civil rights giants

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Activists who gathered virtually and in person to commemorate a pivotal day in the civil rights struggle that became known as Bloody Sunday called on people to continue the fight for voting rights as they also honored giants of the civil rights movement, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who died last year.

The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee marks the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day on March 7, 1965, that civil rights marchers were brutally beaten by law enforcement officers on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton were the late civil rights leaders honored on Sunday.

The day became a turning point in the fight for voting rights. Footage of the beatings helped galvanize support for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This year’s commemoration comes as some states seek to roll back expanded early and mail-in voting access and efforts have been unsuccessful to restore a key section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval for any changes to voting procedures.

Many speakers throughout the day’s events emphasized the need for continued activism to protect voting access.

“Voter suppression is still alive and well,” said U.S. Rep. Teri Sewell, a Democrat who represents the 7th Congressional District which includes Selma. “It reminds us that progress is elusive and every generation must fight and fight again.”

Sewell spoke during a video that featured comments from activists, mayors, members of Congress and others about the historic anniversary. Later, organizers played video footage of activists, many who had been part of the original Blood Sunday events in 1965, crossing the bridge once again. They wore masks and in keeping with social distancing requirements designed to stop the coronavirus, spread out across the bridge as they walked.

The event typically brings thousands of people to Selma. However, most of the events were held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast was held as a drive-in event. The outdoor event included some in-person speakers such as Rev. Bernard LaFayette, and the founders of the group Black Voters Matter. Cliff Albright, one of the group’s founders, spoke about the continued need to fight for voter access.

“The movement is not over,” he said as people in their cars honked in support. “What we are asking folks today is for us to commit to that moment, for us to commit to this movement.”

Others spoke via video link or in prerecorded messages. President Joe Biden appeared via a prerecorded message in which announced an executive order aimed at promoting voting access.

“Every eligible voter should be able to vote and have that vote counted,” Biden said. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher, is often considered the dean of the civil rights veterans and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Vivian began organizing sit-ins against segregation in the 1940s and later joined forces with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Vivian led dozens of marchers to a courthouse in Selma, confronting the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and telling him the marchers should be allowed to register to vote. The sheriff responded by punching Vivian in the head.

Boynton was arrested for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia, launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation.

His case inspired the Freedom Riders of 1961 — a group of young activists who went on bus rides throughout the South to test whether court-ruled desegregation was actually being enforced. They faced violence from white mobs and arrest by local authorities.

Organizers acknowledged the fallen civil rights leaders and planned to lay wreaths at the bridge in their honor.

The march across the Selma bridge was sparked by events in nearby Marion, where a Black man had been killed by a white Alabama state trooper during peaceful protests for voting rights. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, was shot while trying to protect his mother from being hurt and died eight days later. In response, activists in Marion and Selma gathered for a march on March 7, their goal the state capital in Montgomery.


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