World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Selma to Montgomery marches

Article Id: WHEBN0000646612
Reproduction Date:

Title: Selma to Montgomery marches  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Martin Luther King, Jr., Voting Rights Act of 1965, Coretta Scott King, Frederick D. Reese, James Bevel
Collection: 1965 in Alabama, 1965 in the United States, African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954–68), African-American History of Alabama, All-American Roads, Articles Containing Video Clips, Civil Rights Movement During the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, Civil Rights Protests in the United States, Conflicts in 1965, History of African-American Civil Rights, History of Alabama, History of Montgomery, Alabama, History of Voting Rights in the United States, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Trails of the United States, Protest Marches, Selma, Alabama
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Selma to Montgomery marches

Selma to Montgomery marches
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
Alabama State troopers attack civil-rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965
Date March 7–25, 1965
Location Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, U.S. Route 80, Alabama State Capitol, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama

Obstruction of voter registration for African Americans
Voter registration campaign

Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson
Goals Voting rights
Methods Nonviolence, Protest, Protest march, Civil disobedience
Result Voting Rights Act of 1965
Parties to the civil conflict
  • 45th Governor of Alabama
  • Selma Department of Safety
  • Dallas County Circuit Court
  • White Citizens' Council
  • Local policemen
  • Sheriff's deputies
Lead figures

State of Alabama

  • George Wallace, Governor
  • Albert J. Lingo, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety
  • Maj. John Cloud, Commander of Alabama State Troopers

Dallas County

  • Judge James Hare, Circuit Court
  • Jim Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County
  • J. P. Majors, Dallas County Registrar

City of Selma

The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Voting Rights Movement underway in Selma, Alabama. By highlighting racial injustice in the South, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression.

Southern state legislatures had passed and maintained a series of discriminatory requirements and practices that had Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters.

Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legal segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. According to Joseph A. Califano Jr., who served as head of domestic affairs for US President Lyndon Johnson between the years 1965 and 1969,[2] the President viewed King as an essential partner in getting the Voting Rights Act enacted.[2] Califano, who the President also assigned to monitor the final march to Montgomery,[3] noted that Johnson and King talked by telephone on January 15 to plan a strategy for drawing attention to the injustice of using literacy tests and other barriers to stop black Southerners from voting and that King had later informed the President on February 9 of his decision to use Selma to achieve this objective.[2]

On February 26, 1965, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper during a peaceful march in nearby Marion, Alabama. To defuse and refocus the community's outrage, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.[4][5] Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965, organized locally by Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others. State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas after they passed over the county line, and the event became known as Bloody Sunday.[6][7] Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the bridge.[8]

The second march took place March 9. Troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other at the county end of the bridge, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church.[9] He was obeying a federal injunction while seeking protection from federal court for the march. That night, a white group beat and murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, who had come to Selma to march with the second group.[10] Many other clergy and sympathizers from across the country also gathered for the second march.

The violence of the "Bloody Sunday" and of Reeb's death led to a national outcry and some acts of civil disobedience, targeting both the Alabama state and federal governments. The protesters demanded protection for the Selma marchers and a new federal voting rights law to enable African Americans to register and vote without harassment. President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration had been working on a voting rights law, held a historic, nationally televised joint session of Congress on March 15 to ask for the bill's introduction and passage.

With Governor Wallace refusing to protect the marchers, President Johnson committed to do so. The third march started March 21. Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, the marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the "Jefferson Davis Highway". The marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25.[11] With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights.

The route is memorialized as the "Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail," and is designated as a U.S. National Historic Trail.


  • Selma movement established: 1963–64 1
  • 1965 campaign launched 2
    • Background 2.1
    • Events of January 2.2
    • Events of February 2.3
  • The first Selma-to-Montgomery March 3
    • Jimmie Lee Jackson's death 3.1
    • Initiation and goals of the march 3.2
    • "Bloody Sunday" events 3.3
    • Response to "Bloody Sunday" 3.4
  • Second march: "Turnaround Tuesday" 4
    • Response to the second march 4.1
      • Actions in Montgomery 4.1.1
      • Actions at the White House 4.1.2
      • Johnson's decision and the Voting Rights Act 4.1.3
  • The march to Montgomery 5
    • Response to the third march 5.1
    • Hammermill boycott 5.2
  • Aftermath and historical impact 6
  • Legacy and honors 7
    • Revitalization 7.1
  • Representation in media 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Selma movement established: 1963–64

At the turn of the century, the Alabama state legislature passed a new constitution that effectively disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites by requirements for payment of a poll tax and passing a literacy test and comprehension of the constitution. Subjective application of the laws effectively closed most blacks out of politics. Selma is a major town and the seat of Dallas County, part of the Alabama Black Belt with a majority-black population. In 1961, the population of Dallas County was 57% black, but of the 15,000 blacks old enough to vote, only 130 were registered (fewer than 1%). At that time, more than 80% of Dallas County blacks lived below the poverty line, most of them working as sharecroppers, farm hands, maids, janitors, and day-laborers, but there were also teachers and business owners.[12] With the literacy test administered subjectively by white registrars, even educated blacks were prevented from registering or voting.[13]

Led by the Boynton family (Amelia, Sam, and son Bruce), Rev. L.L. Anderson, J.L. Chestnut, and Marie Foster, the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) tried to register black citizens during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their efforts were blocked by state and local officials, the White Citizens' Council, and the Ku Klux Klan. By the 1960s, county officials and the Citizens' Council used such tactics as restricted registration hours; economic pressure, including threatening people's jobs, firing them, evicting people from leased homes, and economic boycotts of black-owned businesses; and violence against blacks who tried to register. The Society of Saint Edmund, an order of Catholics committed to alleviating poverty and promoting civil rights, were the only whites in Selma who openly supported the voting rights campaign.[14] SNCC staff member Don Jelinek later described this order as “the unsung heroes of the Selma March…who provided the only integrated Catholic church in Selma, and perhaps in the entire Deep South.”[15]

In early 1963, Prathia Hall and Worth Long carried on the work despite arrests, beatings, and death threats. When 32 black school teachers applied at the county courthouse to register as voters, they were immediately fired by the all-white school board.

After the John Lewis.[16]

October 7, 1963, was one of the two days that month when residents were allowed to go to the courthouse to apply to register to vote. SNCC's James Forman and the DCVL mobilized more than 300 blacks from Dallas County to line up at the voter registration office in what was called a "Freedom Day". Supporting them were national figures, author James Baldwin and his brother David, and comedian Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian (she was later arrested for picketing with SNCC activists and local supporters). SNCC members who tried to bring water to the blacks waiting on line were arrested, as were those who held signs saying "Register to Vote." After waiting all day in the hot sun, only a handful of the hundreds in the line were allowed to fill out the voter application, and most of those applications were denied by white county officials. United States Justice Department lawyers and FBI agents were present and observing the scene, but took no action against local officials.[17]

On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, prohibiting segregation of public facilities. Some Jim Crow laws and customs remained in effect in Selma and other places for some time. When activists resumed efforts to integrate Selma's eating and entertainment venues, blacks who tried to attend the movie theater and eat at the hamburger stand were beaten and arrested.

On July 6, 1964, one of the two registration days that month, John Lewis led 50 black citizens to the courthouse, but

  • National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, Selma, Alabama
  • Selma and the March to Montgomery ~ A Discussion by Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  • Images of Selma and the March to Montgomery ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  • Selma and the March to Montgomery ~ A Discussion by Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  • Police attack Alabama marchers by BBC News
  • Alabama Department of Archives & History
  • ”The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March: Shaking the Conscience of the Nation” a National Park Service lesson plan
  • President Johnson/Dr. King phone call of January 15, 1965 from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia
  • FBI files on the March, hosted at the Internet Archive
  • Selma to Montgomery March article, Encyclopedia of Alabama
  • Tullos, Allen. "Selma Bridge: Always Under Construction," Southern Spaces July 28, 2008.
  • The Selma March Remembered ~ An account by someone who was there.
  • Brotherhood Postponed Sermon by Rabbi Maurice Davis recapping the events of the third march to Montgomery
  • NEH's EDSITEment Picturing Freedom:Selma to Montgomery March 1965

External links

  1. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968 (Simon and Shuster, 2007), p. 198
  2. ^ a b c d Joseph A. Califano Jr. (December 26, 2014). "The movie ‘Selma’ has a glaring flaw". Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d From Selma to Montgomery LBJ Presidential Library, Accessed April 23, 2015
  4. ^ Randall Kryn, "James L. Bevel The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement," In David Garrow's 1989 book We Shall Overcome, Volume II, New York: Carlson Publishing Company, 1989
  5. ^ a b Randy Kryn, "Movement Revision Research Summary Regarding James Bevel", October 2005, Middlebury College
  6. ^ "Students March at Nyack". The New York Times (New York, New York). March 11, 1965. p. 19. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Reed, Roy (March 6, 1966). Bloody Sunday' Was Year Ago"'". The New York Times (New York, New York). p. 76. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Sheila Jackson Hardy; P. Stephen Hardy (August 11, 2008). Extraordinary People of the Civil Rights Movement. Paw Prints. p. 264.  
  9. ^ Branch, Taylor (2013). The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Simon & Schuster. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Davis, Townsend (1998). Weary Feet, Rested Souls. W.W. Norton. 
  12. ^ a b "Selma — Breaking the Grip of Fear" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  13. ^ Are You "Qualified" to Vote? The Alabama "Literacy Test" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  14. ^ "Edmundite Southern Missions", Encyclopedia of Alabama
  15. ^ Don Jelinek, “Oral History/Interview, 2005-Selma Underground: Fathers of St. Edmund”, Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  16. ^ "Freedom Day in Selma" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  17. ^ Zinn, Howard (1965). SNCC The New Abolitionists. Beacon Press. 
  18. ^ "The Selma Injunction", ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans.
  19. ^ a b Ari Berman, "Fifty Years After Bloody Sunday in Selma, Everything and Nothing Has Changed", The Nation, 25 February 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  20. ^ Randall Kryn, "James L. Bevel The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement," In David Garrow, We Shall Overcome, Volume II, New York: Carlson Publishing Company, 1989
  21. ^ "1965-SCLC and SNCC" Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  22. ^ a b "1965-Breaking the Selma Injunction", Civil Right Movement Veterans Timeline
  23. ^ "1965-Selma on the Eve", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  24. ^ Johnson Conversation with Martin Luther King on Jan 15, 1965 (WH6501.04), Miller Center of Public Affairs, Accessed January 17, 2015
  25. ^ a b "1965-Marching to the Courthouse" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  26. ^ United Press International "King Struck, Kicked During Racial Drive", Chicago Tribune, 19 January 1965
  27. ^ "1965-Teachers March" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  28. ^ "1965-Annie Cooper and Sheriff Clark" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  29. ^ a b Jet, February 11, 1965
  30. ^ David Garrow, Protest at Selma (Yale University Press, 1978), p. 45
  31. ^ a b "1965-Letter from a Selma Jail", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  32. ^ "The Alabama Struggle" SNCC pamphlet
  33. ^ (University of Georgia Press, 2005), pp. 92-93Pure Fire:Self-Defense as Activism in the Civil Rights EraChristopher Strain,
  34. ^ a b c Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 578-579
  35. ^ video of speech on YouTube
  36. ^ 7 (1): 12–19, 2005SoulsClayborne Carson "The Unfinished Dialogue of Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X,"
  37. ^ Alvin Adams, "Malcolm 'seemed sincere'", Jet, Mar 11, 1965
  38. ^ Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 580-581
  39. ^ "1965-Bound in Jail", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  40. ^ Bending Towards Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American DemocracyGary May, (Basic Books, 2013) p. 69
  41. ^ a b Selma, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Lyndon Johnson Tapes Kent Germany, Miller Center of Public Affairs, accessed April 19, 2015
  43. ^ "Congressional Record 113th Congress (2013-2014)". November 13, 2013. 
  44. ^ "1965-Cracking Lowndes" Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  45. ^ "1965-Bound in Jail; Clubs and Cattleprods; Holding on and Pushing Forward", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  46. ^ David Garrow, Protest at Selma (Yale University Press, 1978), p. 58
  47. ^ David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Jonathan Cape, 1988), p. 389
  48. ^ Halberstam, David. The Children, Random House, 1998, p. 502.
  49. ^ Fleming, John (March 6, 2005). "The Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson".  
  50. ^ Kryn in Garrow, 1989
  51. ^ Kryn, 2005
  52. ^ "1965-Tensions Escalate" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  53. ^ "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Alabama (SNCC)", Encyclopedia of Alabama
  54. ^ UPI, "Obama-Selma to mark 50th anniversary of historic civil rights march, 6 March 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  55. ^ We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement"The Cost", , National Park Service
  56. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013)
  57. ^ "The wire photo of her left for dead on Edmund Pettus Bridge, which went around the world on the news that night, helped spark the outpouring of support for the civil rights movement...", Schiller Institute
  58. ^ a b Dallek, Robert (1999). Flawed Giant Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 215–217.  
  59. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968 (Simon and Shuster, 2006), p. 73
  60. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968 (Simon and Shuster, 2006), p. 59-65
  61. ^ "Selma Outrage Condemned", The Crisis, Vol. 72, No. 4, April 1965
  62. ^ See Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 1967, citing Howat v. Kansas, 258 U.S. 181 (1922).
  63. ^ "Selma to Montgomery: Crossing a Bridge Into History - Alabama Road Trips - Alabama.Travel". Alabama's Official Travel Guide. 
  64. ^ a b c (Vintage edition, 1993), p. 401-405Bearing the CrossDavid Garrow,
  65. ^ "Martin Luther King and the Global Freedom Struggle".  
  66. ^ Eliza Berman "How a Little-Known Government Agency Kept the Peace in Selma" Time, March 25, 2015
  67. ^ a b The March to Montgomery ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  68. ^ "James Reeb". Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State University. 2012. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  69. ^ "James Reeb" King Encyclopedia
  70. ^ "Bridge to Freedom" episode, Eyes on the Prize series, PBS_WGBH
  71. ^ "1965-Students March in Montgomery; Confrontation at Dexter Church", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  72. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 107, 126
  73. ^ "1965-Protests and Police Violence Continue in Montgomery; Brutal Attack in Montgomery", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  74. ^ a b "1965-Wednesday, March 17", Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  75. ^ Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy>Gary May, , (New York: Basic Books, 2013) p. 129
  76. ^ "The President's Daily Diary: March 11, 1965" LBJ Library and Museum
  77. ^ Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, "H. Rap Brown/ Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story", The Nation, 28 February 2002
  78. ^ Branch, At Canaan's Edge, p. 93
  79. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy, (Basic Books, 2013), p. 94
  80. ^ Robert Young, "Johnson won't be 'blackjacked into force by pressure groups'", Chicago Tribune, 13 March 1965
  81. ^ John D. Pomfret, "US to Prosecute Police Over Gas Attack", New York Times, 12 March 1965, accessed 11 March 2015
  82. ^ "President Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Message to the Congress: The American Promise, March 15, 1965", [As delivered in person before a joint session at 9:02 p.m.]"]
  83. ^ Pauley, Garth E. (2001). The Modern Presidency & Civil Rights: Rhetoric on Race from Roosevelt to Nixon. Presidential Rhetoric and Political Communication Series 3. Texas A&M University Press. p. 189.  
  84. ^ Williams v. Wallace, 240 F. Supp. 100, 106 (M.D. Ala. 1960).
  85. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) pp. 127–128
  86. ^ Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973Robert Dallek, (Oxford University Press, 1998), p.218
  87. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 130
  88. ^ [2] - Califano Reports
  89. ^ Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail – National Park Service
  90. ^ Nouwen, Henri (2008). The Road to Peace, p. 84-85. Orbis, New York. ISBN 1570751927.
  91. ^ Cobb, Charles E. (2008). On the Road to Freedom. Algonquin Books. 
  92. ^
  93. ^ Clark, Doug (January 18, 2015). "King letter of thanks hangs on his wall". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA). Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  94. ^ Tankersley, Mike (March 25, 2012). "City of St. Jude is just wild about Harry".  
  95. ^ Selma to Montgomery March – King Research & Education Center at Stanford University
  96. ^ Mary Stanton, FROM SELMA TO SORROW: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo, University of Georgia Press, 2000
  97. ^ Jane Daily, "Sex, Segregation, and the Sacred after Brown", The Journal of American History, 91.1. Note: Mikkel's book was published with a colorized cover photograph showing splotches of blood drawn on an image of Viola Liuzzo's car.
  98. ^ Fredrick, Stand Up for Alabama, page 126
  99. ^ "Selma to be Southern Operations Base"
  100. ^ Student Voice
  101. ^ 27 May 1965Jet,.
  102. ^ The Activist Consensus
  103. ^ The Best Known Name in Paper, Hammermill, Pennsylvania State University
  104. ^ a b Weinstein, Allen (2002). The Story of America: Freedom and Crisis from Settlement to Superpower. DK Publishing, Inc. 
  105. ^ Williams, Juan (2002). Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Penguin Books.  
  106. ^ Wicker, Tom (15 March 1965). "Johnson Urges Congress at Joint Session to Pass Law Insuring Negro Vote". New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  107. ^ Tambay A. Obenson (4 June 2014). "Niecy Nash Signs Up To Play Richie Jean Jackson In Ava Du - Shadow and Act". Shadow and Act. 
  108. ^ "1965-President Johnson: We Shall Overcome" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  109. ^ "FBI investigating '65 killing of pro-civil rights minister", The Grio
  110. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice, p. 125
  111. ^ "Stokely Carmichael" King Encyclopedia
  112. ^ "Eyes on the Prize II: Interview with Cleveland Sellers" Washington University Digital Gateway
  113. ^ "1965-SCOPE Voter Registration" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  114. ^ a b c "Voting Rights Act:the first months." United States Commission on Civil Rights. Washington, DC. 1965. CR1.2:V94/2
  115. ^ "1965-SCOPE Voter Registration" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  116. ^ "1965-SCLC/SCOPE and SNCC" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  117. ^ "1965-SCOPE" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  118. ^ (CQ Press, 2012) p. 624-628The African American Electorate: A Statistical HistoryHanes Walton Jr, Sherman Puckett, and Donald R Deskins,
  119. ^ "Walter C. Givhan", Auburn University, 2015, accessed 12 March 2015
  120. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge, p. 461
  121. ^ Rawls, Phillip (June 6, 2007). "Ala. Ex-Sheriff Dies; Civil Rights Foe".  
  122. ^ "1965-SCOPE Voter Registration" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  123. ^ Selma-to-Montgomery 1965 Voting Rights March – Alabama Department of Archives & History
  124. ^ History and Culture: Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail, National Park Service
  125. ^ a b c "Greening the Selma to Montgomery Trail: Reconnecting and Remembering", Greening American Capitals, EPA
  126. ^ a b "Community Engagement At Leaking Underground Storage Tank Sites: National Historic Voting Rights Trail Selma To Montgomery, Alabama", EPA, 9 July 2010, accessed 14 March 2015
  127. ^ "Eyes on the Prize". The American Experience. PBS. August 23, 2006. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  128. ^ Selma, Lord, Selma' airs Jan. 17: The horror and legacy of Bloody Sunday brought to life"'". Pittsburg New Courier (Pittsburgh, PA). December 30, 1998. Retrieved 5 June 2014.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  129. ^ "Critic reviews for Selma". Metacritic. February 2, 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2015. 
  130. ^ Selma" Movie""". Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  131. ^ Updegrove, Mark K. (December 22, 2014). "What ‘Selma’ Gets Wrong". Politico Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  132. ^ Cavna, Michael (August 12, 2013). "In the graphic novel 'March,' Rep. John Lewis renders a powerful civil rights memoir".  


See also

  • Eyes on the Prize (1987) was a 14-hour PBS documentary narrated by Julian Bond and produced by PBS. The sixth episode, "Bridge to Freedom," explores the Selma to Montgomery marches. The series and its producer won six Emmies, the Peabody Award, and the duPont-Columbia Gold Baton award for excellence in journalism, and it was nominated for an Academy Award.[127]
  • Selma, Lord, Selma (1999), the first dramatic feature film based on events surrounding the Selma to Montgomery marches, is a Disney made-for-TV movie shown on ABC television.[128] Critical reception varied.
  • Academy Award for Best Picture, won for best song, and received highly favorable reviews,[129] despite being criticized for the inaccurate portrayal of President Johnson as obstructing the advancement of civil rights.[2][130][131]
  • John Lewis and published by Top Shelf Productions. It begins with his and fellow civil rights activists' beating and gassing at the hands of Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Written by Lewis and his congressional aide, Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell, the first book in series was published in August 2013.[132]

Representation in media

The work in Montgomery is related to a larger multi-agency effort since 2009 between the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), EPA and the National Park Service to improve areas along the National Historic Voting Rights Trail to enable local communities to thrive. The US 80 corridor has been described in an EPA summary as a "54-mile corridor of high unemployment, health issues, lower educational and economic achievements, and severe rural isolation."[126] Among the serious environmental issues identified by EPA has been the presence of active and abandoned gas stations along the highway, with potential contamination from petroleum leaks from underground storage sites. A site in Montgomery had been identified as a problem, and EPA conducted additional assessments since the beginning of the project. Cleanup of the Montgomery site was scheduled to be completed in 2011. In addition, the agencies have sponsored community engagement to develop plans related to community goals. Since 2010, federal teams have met with community leaders in Selma, Hayneville and Montgomery, the county seats of Dallas, Lowndes and Montgomery counties.[126]

Montgomery was one of four state capitals chosen for a Greening Americas Capitals Grant, a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Beginning in 2011, EPA and community groups developed the study through consultations and a 3-day design workshops, aided by nationally acclaimed urban planners.[125] The Montgomery portion of the Selma to Montgomery trail was being improved through a multimillion-dollar investment in order to enhance the trail and related neighborhoods. The city chose a section that passes through a "historically significant African-American neighborhood."[125] Projects planned to improve design and sustainability include infill development, resurfacing, pedestrian improvements, environmental improvements including new trees and green-screens, and drainage improvements. In addition, many information panels have been installed, as well as several permanent public art displays that are tied to the march.[125]


  • In 1996, the 54-mile Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail was designated and is preserved by the National Park Service.[124] As part of the National Historic Trail, the National Park Service operates two interpretive centers (Selma and Lowndes County). It is planning to operate a Montgomery center to be located on the campus of Alabama State University.
  • In February 2015, both houses of Congress voted for a resolution to award Congressional Gold Medals to the "foot soldiers" of the Selma campaign. In a later ceremony, two dozen individuals in Selma received certificates.[19]

Legacy and honors

In 1960, there were a total of 53,336 black voters registered in the state of Alabama; three decades later, there were 537,285,[123] a tenfold increase.

Overall, the Justice Department assigned registrars to six of Alabama's 24 Black Belt counties during the late 1960s, and to fewer than one-fifth of all the Southern counties covered by the Act.[122] Expansion of enforcement grew gradually, and the jurisdiction of the Act was expanded through a series of amendments beginning in 1970. An important change was made in 1972, when Congress passed an amendment that discrimination could be determined by "effect" rather than trying to prove "intent." Thus, if county or local practices resulted in a significant minority population being unable to elect candidates of their choice, the practices were considered to be discriminatory in effect.

In November 1966, Katzenbach told Johnson regarding Alabama, that "I am attempting to do the least I can do safely without upsetting the civil rights groups." Katzenbach did concentrate examiners and observers in Selma for the "high-visibility" election between incumbent County Sheriff Jim Clark and Wilson Baker, who had earned the grudging respect of many local residents and activists.[120] With 11,000 blacks added to the voting rolls in Selma by March 1966, they voted for Baker in 1966, turning Clark out of office. He later was prosecuted and convicted of drug smuggling and served a prison sentence.[121] The US Civil Rights Commission noted that the murders of activists, such as Jonathan Daniels in 1965, had been a major impediment to voter registration.[114]

By March 1966, nearly 11,000 blacks had registered to vote in Selma, where 12,000 whites were registered.[7] More blacks would register by November, when their goal was to replace County Sheriff Jim Clark; his opponent was Wilson Baker, for whom they had respect. In addition, five blacks ran for office in Dallas County. Rev. P.H. Lewis, pastor of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, ran for state representative on the Democratic ticket. David Ellwanger, a brother of Rev. Joseph Ellwanger of Birmingham, who led supporters in Selma in 1965, challenged incumbent state senator Walter C. Givhan (d. 1976), a fierce segregationist and power in the state senate.[7] First elected to the state senate in 1954, Givhan retained his seat for six terms, even after redistricting before the 1966 election.[119]

[118][117] Many activists worried that President Johnson still sought to appease Southern whites, and some historians support this view.[116] SCLC and SNCC were temporarily able to mend past differences through collaboration in the [114] In the summer of 1965, a well-funded SCLC decided to join SNCC and CORE in massive on-the-ground voter registration programs in the South. The Civil Rights Commission noted this as a major contributor to expanding black voters in 1965, and the Justice Department acknowledged leaning on the work of "local organizations" in the movement to implement the Act.

In the early years of the Act, overall progress was slow, with local registrars continuing to use their power to deny African Americans voting access. In most Alabama counties, for example, registration continued to be limited to two days per month.[113] The United States Civil Rights Commission acknowledged that "The Attorney General moved slowly in exercising his authority to designate counties for examiners...he acted only in counties where he had ample evidence to support the belief that there would be intentional and flagrant violation of the Act."[114] Dr. King demanded that federal registrars be sent to every county covered by the Act, but Attorney General Katzenbach refused.[115]

The bill was signed by President Johnson in an August 6 ceremony attended by Amelia Boynton and many other civil rights leaders and activists. This act prohibited most of the unfair practices used to prevent blacks from registering to vote, and provided for federal registrars to go to Alabama and other states with a history of voting-related discrimination to ensure that the law was implemented by overseeing registration and elections.

[112][111] Before the march to Montgomery concluded, SNCC staffers

Many others in the movement remained skeptical of the White House, believing that Johnson was culpable for having allowed violence against the movement in the early months of the campaign and was not a reliable supporter. Neither Jimmie Lee Jackson's murderer, nor Reverend Reeb's was ever prosecuted by the federal government.[108][109] J.L. Chestnut, reflecting the view of many Selma activists, feared that the president had "outfoxed" and "co-opted" King and the SCLC. James Forman quipped that by quoting "We Shall Overcome," Johnson had simply "spoiled a good song."[110] Such grassroots activists were more determined than ever to remain independent in their political organizing.

... I looked over ... and Martin was very quietly sitting in the chair, and a tear ran down his cheek. It was a victory like none other. It was an affirmation of the movement.[104][107]

Many in the Civil Rights movement cheered the speech and were emotionally moved that after so long, and so hard a struggle, a President was finally willing to defend voting rights for blacks. According to C.T. Vivian, an SCLC activist who was with King at Richie Jean Jackson's home when the speech was broadcast,

Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.[104][105]:278[106]

Johnson's televised speech in front of Congress was carried nationally; it was considered to be a watershed moment for the civil rights movement. He said:

The marches had a powerful effect in Washington. After witnessing TV coverage of "Bloody Sunday," President Voting Rights Act.

President Obama's speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail sign.

Aftermath and historical impact

On March 26, 1965, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee called for a national boycott of Hammermill paper products, until the company reversed what SNCC described as racist policies. The SCLC joined in support of the boycott.[101] In cooperation with SCLC, student members of Oberlin College Action for Civil Rights,[102] joined with SCLC members to conduct picketing and a sit-in at Hammermill's Erie, Pennsylvania headquarters. The company called a meeting of the corporate leadership, SCLC's C.T. Vivian, and Oberlin student leadership. Their discussions led to Hammermill executives signing an agreement to support integration in Alabama.[103]

During 1965, Martin Luther King was promoting an economic boycott of Alabama products to put pressure on the State to integrate schools and employment.[98] In an action under development for some time, Hammermill paper company announced the opening of a major plant in Selma, Alabama; this came during the height of violence in early 1965.[99] On February 4, 1965, the Company announced plans for construction of a $35 million plant, allegedly touting the "fine reports the company had received about the character of the community and its people."[100]

Hammermill boycott

U.S. Representative William Louis Dickinson made two speeches to Congress on March 30 and April 27, seeking to slander the movement by making spurious charges of alcohol abuse, bribery, and widespread sexual license among the marchers. Religious leaders present at the marches denied the charges, and local and national journalists found no grounds for his accounts. The allegations of segregation supporters were collected in Robert M. Mikell's pro-segregationist book Selma (Charlotte, 1965).[97]

The third march received national and international coverage; it publicized the marchers' message without harassment by police and segregation supporters. Gaining more widespread support from other civil rights organizations in the area, this march was considered an overall success, with greater influence on the public. Voter registration drives were organized in black-majority areas across the South, but it took time to get people signed up.

Response to the third march

Later that night, Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of five from Detroit who had come to Alabama to support voting rights for blacks, was assassinated by Ku Klux Klan members while she was ferrying marchers back to Selma from Montgomery. Among the Klansmen in the car from which the shots were fired was FBI informant Gary Rowe. Afterward, the FBI's COINTELPRO operation spread false rumors that Liuzzo was a member of the Communist Party and had abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African American activists.[96]

After delivering the speech, King and the marchers approached the entrance to the capitol with a petition for Governor Wallace. A line of state troopers blocked the door. One announced that the governor was not in. Undeterred, the marchers remained at the entrance until one of Wallace's secretaries appeared and took the petition.

"The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. ... I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long."[95]

On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people marched from St. Jude to the steps of the State Capitol Building where King delivered the speech How Long, Not Long. He said:

That night on a makeshift stage, a "Stars for Freedom" rally was held, with singers Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Baez, Nina Simone and The Chad Mitchell Trio[93] all performing.[94] Thousands more people continued to join the march.

On the morning of March 24, the march crossed into Montgomery County and the highway widened again to four lanes. All day as the march approached the city, additional marchers were ferried by bus and car to join the line. By evening, several thousand marchers had reached the final campsite at the City of St. Jude, a complex on the outskirts of Montgomery.

On March 22 and 23, 300 protesters marched through chilling rain across Lowndes County, camping at three sites in muddy fields. At the time of the march, the population of Lowndes County was 81% black and 19% white, but not a single black was registered to vote.[91] There were 2,240 whites registered to vote in Lowndes County,[92] a figure that represented 118% of the adult white population (in many southern counties of that era it was common practice to retain white voters on the rolls after they died or moved away).

In 1965, the road to Montgomery was four lanes wide going east from Selma, then narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County, and widened to four lanes again at the Montgomery county border. Under the terms of Judge Johnson's order, the march was limited to no more than 300 participants for the two days they were on the two-lane portion of Highway-80. At the end of the first day, most of the marchers returned to Selma by bus and car, leaving 300 to camp overnight and take up the journey the next day.

On Sunday, March 21, close to 8,000 people assembled at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to commence the trek to Montgomery.[89] Most of the participants were black, but some were white and some were Asian and Latino. Spiritual leaders of multiple races, religions, and creeds marched abreast with Dr. King, including Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Maurice Davis, and at least one nun, all of whom were depicted in a photo that has become famous.[67] The Dutch priest Henri Nouwen joined the march on March 24.[90]

Judge Johnson had sympathized with the protesters for some days, but had withheld his order until he received an iron-clad commitment of enforcement from the White House. President Johnson had avoided such a commitment in sensitivity to the power of the state's rights movement, and attempted to cajole Governor Wallace into protecting the marchers himself, or at least giving the president permission to send troops. Finally, seeing that Wallace had no intention of doing either, the president gave his commitment to Judge Johnson on the morning of March 17, and the judge issued his order the same day.[85] The president federalized the Alabama National Guard on March 20.[86] To ensure that this march would not be as unsuccessful as the first two marches were,[3] Johnson sent one thousand military policemen and two thousand army troops to escort the march from Selma. The ground operation was supervised by Deputy US Attorney General Ramsey Clark.[87] He also sent Joseph A Califano Jr., who at the time served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense,[3] to outline the progress of the march.[3] In a series of letters, Califano reported on the march at regular intervals for the four days.[88]

The law is clear that the right to petition one's government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups . ... These rights may ... be exercised by marching, even along public highways.[84]

A week after Reeb's death, on Wednesday March 17, federal Judge Johnson ruled in favor of the protesters, saying their First Amendment right to march in protest could not be abridged by the state of Alabama:

The 3rd Selma Civil Rights March frontline. From far left: John Lewis, an unidentified nun; Ralph Abernathy; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Ralph Bunche; Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel; Frederick Douglas Reese. Second row: Between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Bunche is Rabbi Maurice Davis. Heschel later wrote, "When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying."

The march to Montgomery

On March 15, the president convened a joint session of Congress, outlined his new voting rights bill, and demanded that they pass it. In a historic presentation carried nationally on live television, making use of the largest media network, Johnson praised the courage of African-American activists. He called Selma "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom" on a par with the Battle of Appomattox in the American Civil War. Johnson added that his entire Great Society program, not only the Voting Rights Bill, was part of the Civil Rights Movement. He adopted language associated with Dr. King, declaring that "it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome."[82] Afterward, King sent a telegram to Johnson congratulating him for his speech, calling it "the most moving eloquent unequivocal and passionate plea for human rights ever made by any president of this nation."[83] Johnson's Voting Rights Bill was formally introduced in Congress two days later.

Johnson's decision and the Voting Rights Act

On March 11, Attorney General Katzenbach announced that the federal government was intending to prosecute local and state officials who were responsible for the attacks on the marchers on March 7.[81] He would use an 1870 civil rights law as the basis for charges.

President Johnson told the press that he refused to be "blackjacked" into action by unruly "pressure groups".[80] The next day he arranged a personal meeting with Governor Wallace, urging him to use the Alabama National Guard to protect marchers. He also began preparing the final draft of his voting rights bill.[58]

[79] On March 11, seven Selma solidarity activists

Actions at the White House

Governor Wallace did not negotiate, however. He continued to have state police arrest any demonstrators who ventured onto Alabama State property of the capitol complex.[74]

According to historian Gary May, “City officials, also worried by the violent turn of events… apologized for the assault on SNCC protesters and invited King and Forman to discuss how to handle future protests in the city.” In the negotiations, Montgomery officials agreed to stop using the county posse against protesters, and to issue march permits to blacks for the first time.[75]

The New York Times featured the Montgomery confrontations on the front page the next day.[74] Although Dr. King was concerned by Forman’s violent rhetoric, he joined him in leading a march of 2000 people in Montgomery to the Montgomery County courthouse.

On March 15 and 16, SNCC led several hundred demonstrators, including Alabama students, Northern students, and local adults, in protests near the capitol complex. The Montgomery County sheriff's posse met them on horseback and drove them back, whipping them. Against the objections of James Bevel, some protesters threw bricks and bottles at police. At a mass meeting on the night of the 16th, Forman “whipped the crowd into a frenzy” demanding that the President act to protect demonstrators, and warned, “If we can’t sit at the table of democracy, we’ll knock the fucking legs off.”[72][73]

With the second march turned and its organizers awaiting a judicial order to safely proceed, Tuskegee Institute students decided to open a "Second Front" by marching to the Alabama State Capitol and delivering a petition to Governor Wallace. They were quickly joined by James Forman and much of the SNCC staff from Selma. The SNCC members distrusted King more than ever after the "turnaround," and were eager to take a separate course. On March 11, SNCC began a series of demonstrations in Montgomery, and put out a national call for others to join them. James Bevel, SCLC's Selma leader, followed them and discouraged their activities, bringing him and SCLC into conflict with Forman and SNCC. Bevel accused Forman of trying to divert people from the Selma campaign and of abandoning nonviolent discipline. Forman accused Bevel of driving a wedge between the student movement and the local black churches. The argument was resolved only when both were arrested.[71]

Actions in Montgomery

Dr. King's credibility in the movement was shaken by the secret turnaround agreement. David Garrow notes that King publicly "waffled and dissembled" on how his final decision had been made. On some occasions King would inaccurately claim that "no pre-arranged agreement existed," but under oath before Judge Johnson, he acknowledged that there had been a "tacit agreement." Criticism of King by radicals in the movement became increasingly pronounced, with James Forman calling Turnaround Tuesday, "a classic example of trickery against the people." [64]

Blacks in Dallas County and the Black Belt mourned the death of Reeb, as they had earlier mourned the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. But many activists were bitter that the media and national political leaders expressed great concern over the murder of Reeb, a northern white in Selma, but had paid scant attention to that of Jackson, a local African American. Stokely Carmichael argued that "the movement itself is playing into the hands of racism, because what you want as a nation is to be upset when anybody is killed [but] for it to be recognized, a white person must be killed -Well, what are you saying?"[70]

James Reeb’s death provoked mourning throughout the country, and tens of thousands held vigils in his honor. President Johnson called Reeb’s widow and father to express his condolences (he would later invoke Reeb’s memory when he delivered a draft of the Voting Rights Act to Congress).[69]

Response to the second march

That evening, three white Unitarian Universalist ministers in Selma for the march were attacked on the street and beaten with clubs by four KKK members.[67] The worst injured was James Reeb from Boston. Fearing that Selma's public hospital would refuse to treat Rev. Reeb, activists took him to Birmingham's University Hospital, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University Hospital, with his wife by his side.[68]

As only SCLC leaders had been told in advance of the plan, many marchers felt confusion and consternation, including those who had traveled long distances to participate and oppose police brutality. King asked them to remain in Selma for another march to take place after the injunction was lifted.

On the morning of March 9, a day that would become known as "Turnaround Tuesday",[65] Collins handed Dr. King the secretly agreed on route. King led about 2,500 marchers out on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and held a short prayer session before turning them around, thereby obeying the court order preventing them from making the full march, and following the agreement made by Collins, Lingo and Clark. He did not venture across the border into the county, even though the police unexpectedly stood aside to let them enter.[64][66]

Police watch marchers turn around on Tuesday, March 9, 1965.

Assistant Attorney General John Doar and Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, representing President Lyndon Johnson, went to Selma to meet with King and others at Richie Jean Jackson's house[42][63] and privately urged King to postpone the march. The SCLC president told them that his conscience demanded that he proceed, and that many movement supporters, especially in SNCC, would go ahead with the march even if he told them it should be called off. Collins suggested to King that he make a symbolic witness at the bridge, then turn around and lead the marchers back to Selma. King told them that he would try to enact the plan provided that Collins could ensure that law enforcement would not attack them. Collins obtained this guarantee from Sheriff Clark and Al Lingo in exchange for a guarantee that King would follow a precise route drawn up by Clark.[64]

Based on past experience, some in SCLC were confident that Judge Johnson would eventually lift the restraining order. They did not want to alienate one of the few southern judges who had displayed sympathy to their cause by violating his injunction. In addition, they did not yet have sufficient infrastructure in place to support the long march, one for which the marchers were ill-equipped. They knew that violating a court order could result in punishment for contempt, even if the order is later reversed.[62] But some movement activists, both local and from around the country, were determined to march on Tuesday to protest both the "Bloody Sunday" violence and the systematic denial of black voting rights in Alabama. Both Hosea Williams and James Forman argued that the march must proceed, and by the early morning of the march date, Dr. King had decided to lead people to Montgomery.

To prevent another outbreak of violence, SCLC attempted to gain a court order that would prohibit the police from interfering. Instead of issuing the court order, Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson issued a restraining order, prohibiting the march from taking place until he could hold additional hearings later in the week.

Bevel, King, Nash, and others began organizing a second march to be held on Tuesday, March 9, 1965. They issued a call for clergy and citizens from across the country to join them. Awakened to issues of civil and voting rights by years of Civil Rights Movement activities, and shocked by the television images of "Bloody Sunday," hundreds of people responded to SCLC's call.

Second march: "Turnaround Tuesday"

If Federal troops are not made available to protect the rights of Negroes, then the American people are faced with terrible alternatives. Like the citizens of Nazi-occupied France, Negroes must either submit to the heels of their oppressors or they must organize underground to protect themselves from the oppression of Governor Wallace and his storm troopers.[61]

The Executive Board of the NAACP unanimously passed a resolution the day after "Bloody Sunday", warning,

SNCC officially joined the Selma campaign, putting aside their qualms about SCLC's tactics in order to rally for "the fundamental right of protest".[59] SNCC members independently organized sit-ins in Washington, DC, the following day, occupying the office of Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach until they were dragged away.[60]

After the march, President Johnson issued an immediate statement "deploring the brutality with which a number of Negro citizens of Alabama were treated..." He also promised to send a voting rights bill to Congress that week, although it took him until March 15.[58]

Response to "Bloody Sunday"

[7] In all, 17 marchers were hospitalized and 50 treated for lesser injuries; the day soon became known as "Bloody Sunday" within the black community.[57][8] Televised images of the brutal attack presented Americans and international audiences with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, and roused support for the Selma Voting Rights Campaign.

County Sheriff Jim Clark had issued an order for all white males in Dallas County over the age of twenty-one to report to the courthouse that morning to be deputized. Commanding officer John Cloud told the demonstrators to disband at once and go home. Rev. Hosea Williams tried to speak to the officer, but Cloud curtly informed him there was nothing to discuss. Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators, knocking many to the ground and beating them with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas, and mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.[55][56]

On March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on John Lewis of SNCC and the Reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC, followed by Bob Mants of SNCC and Albert Turner of SCLC. The protest went according to plan until the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and entered Dallas County, where they encountered a wall of state troopers and county posse waiting for them on the other side.

"Bloody Sunday" events

Governor Wallace denounced the march as a threat to public safety; he said that he would take all measures necessary to prevent it from happening. "There will be no march between Selma and Montgomery," Wallace said on March 6, 1965, citing concern over traffic violations. He ordered Alabama Highway Patrol Chief Col. Al Lingo to "use whatever measures are necessary to prevent a march".[54]

[53] They permitted John Lewis to participate, and SNCC provided logistical support, such as the use of its [52] SNCC had severe reservations about the march, especially when they heard that King would not be present.

by marching to Montgomery. Dr. King agreed with Bevel's plan of the march, which they both intended to symbolize a march for full voting rights. They were to ask Governor Wallace to protect black registrants. Constitutional rights The marchers also hoped to bring attention to the continued violations of their [51][50] During a public meeting at Zion United Methodist Church in Marion on February 28 after Jackson's death, emotions were running high. James Bevel, as director of the Selma Voting Rights Movement for SCLC, called for a march from Selma to Montgomery to talk to Governor

Initiation and goals of the march

On February 18, 1965, C. T. Vivian led a march to the courthouse in Marion, the county seat of neighboring Perry County, to protest the arrest of James Orange. State officials had received orders to target Vivian, and a line of Alabama state troopers waited for the marchers at the Perry County courthouse.[48] Officials had turned off all of the nearby street lights, and state troopers rushed at the protesters, attacking them. Protesters Jimmie Lee Jackson and his mother fled the scene to hide in a nearby café. Alabama State Trooper corporal James Bonard Fowler followed Jackson into the café and shot him, saying he thought the protester was trying to get his gun as they grappled. Jackson died eight days later at Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital, of an infection resulting from the gunshot wound.[49] Jackson was the only male wage-earner of his household, which lived in extreme poverty. Jackson's father, mother, wife, and children were left with no source of income. (Fowler said he deeply regretted the shooting.)

Jimmie Lee Jackson's death

The first Selma-to-Montgomery March

By the end of the month, 300 blacks were registered in Selma, compared to 9500 whites.[7]

[47] King told his staff on February 10 that "to get the bill passed, we need to make a dramatic appeal through Lowndes and other counties because the people of Selma are tired."[46][45] Overall more than 3,000 people were arrested in protests between January 1 and February 7, but blacks achieved fewer than 100 new registered voters. In addition, hundreds of people were injured or blacklisted by employers due to their participation in the campaign. DCLV activists became increasingly wary of SCLC's protests, preferring to wait and see if Judge Thomas' ruling of February 4 would make a long-term difference. SCLC was less concerned with Dallas County's immediate registration figures, and primarily focused on creating a public crisis that would make a voting rights bill the White House's number one priority. James Bevel and

Throughout that February, King, Lowndes County, but fear of the Klan there was so intense from previous violence and murders that blacks would not support a nonviolent campaign in great number, even after Dr. King made a personal appearance on March 1.[44]

That February 4, President Lyndon Johnson made his first public statement in support of the Selma campaign. At midday, Judge Thomas, at the Justice Department's urging, issued an injunction that suspended Alabama’s current literacy test, ordered Selma to take at least 100 applications per registration day, and guaranteed that all applications received by June 1 would be processed before July.[34] In response to Thomas' favorable ruling, and in alarm at Malcolm X's visit, Andrew Young, who was not in charge of the Selma movement, said he would suspend demonstrations. James Bevel, however, continued to ask people to line up at the voter's registration office as they had been doing, and Dr. King called Young from jail, telling him the demonstrations would continue. They did so the next day, and more than 500 protesters were arrested.[38][39] On February 5, King bailed himself and Abernathy out of jail. On February 6, the White House announced that it would urge Congress to enact a voting rights bill during the current session, and that the Vice-President and Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach would meet with King in the following week.[40] On February 9, King met with Attorney General Katzenbach, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and White House aides before having a brief, seven-minute session with President Johnson.[41] Following the Oval Office visit, King reported that Johnson planned to deliver his message “very soon.”[41]

[37] During his address, Malcolm X warned the protesters about "[34] When Malcolm X arrived, SCLC staff initially wanted to block his talk, but he assured them that he did not intend to undermine their work.

After the assault on Dr. King by the white supremacist in January, by any means necessary."[33] Fay Bellamy and Silas Norman attended a talk by Malcolm X to 3,000 students at the Tuskegee Institute, and invited him to address a mass meeting at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to kick off the protests on the morning of February 4.[34]

On the same day, students from Tuskegee Institute, working in cooperation with SNCC, were arrested for acts of civil disobedience in solidarity with the Selma campaign.[32] In New York and Chicago, Friends of SNCC chapters staged sit-ins at Federal buildings in support of Selma blacks, and CORE chapters in the North and West also mounted protests. Solidarity pickets began circling in front of the White House late into the night.[31]

Dr. King decided to make a conscious effort to get arrested, for the benefit of publicity. On February 1, King and Ralph Abernathy refused to cooperate with Chief Baker's traffic directions on the way to the courthouse, calculating that Baker would arrest them, putting them in the Selma city jail run by Baker's police, rather than the county jail run by Clark's deputies. Once processed, King and Abernathy refused to post bond. On the same day, SCLC and SNCC organizers took the campaign outside of Dallas County for the first time; in nearby Perry County 700 students and adults, including James Orange, were arrested.[31]

Events of February

James Bevel, speaking at a mass meeting, deplored her actions because "Then [the press] don't talk about the registration."[28] But, when asked about the incident by Jet magazine, Bevel said, "Not everybody who registers is nonviolent; not everybody who registers is supposed to be nonviolent."[29] The incident between Clark and Cooper was a media sensation, putting the campaign on the front page of The New York Times.[30] When asked if she would do it again, Cooper told Jet, "I try to be nonviolent, but I just can't say I wouldn't do the same thing all over again if they treat me brutish like they did this time."[29]

On January 25, U.S District Judge Daniel Thomas issued rules requiring that at least 100 people must be permitted to wait at the courthouse without being arrested. After Dr. King led marchers to the courthouse that morning, Jim Clark began to arrest all registrants in excess of 100, and corral the rest. Annie Lee Cooper, a fifty-three-year-old practical nurse who had been part of the Selma movement since 1963, struck Clark after he twisted her arm, and she knocked him to his knees. Four deputies seized Cooper, and photographers captured images of Clark beating her repeatedly with his club. The crowd was inflamed and some wanted to intervene against Clark, but King ordered them back as Cooper was taken away. Although Cooper had violated nonviolent discipline, the movement rallied around her.

Up to this point, the overwhelming majority of registrants and marchers were sharecroppers, blue-collar workers and students. On January 22, Frederick Reese, a black schoolteacher who was also DCVL President, finally convinced his colleagues to join the campaign and register en masse. When they refused Sheriff Clark's orders to disperse at the courthouse, an ugly scene commenced. Clark's posse beat the teachers away from the door, but they rushed back only to be beaten again. The teachers retreated after three attempts, and marched to a mass meeting where they were celebrated as heroes by the black community.[27]

Over the next week, blacks persisted in their attempts to register. Sheriff Clark responded by arresting organizers, including Amelia Boynton and Hosea Williams. Eventually 225 registrants were arrested as well at the county courthouse. Their cases were handled by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On January 20, President Johnson gave his inaugural address, but did not mention voting rights.[25]

According to their respective strategies, Chief Baker's police were cordial toward demonstrators, but Sheriff Clark refused to let black registrants enter the county courthouse. Clark made no arrests or assaults at this time. However, in an incident that drew national attention, Dr. King was knocked down and kicked by a leader of the National States Rights Party, who was quickly arrested by Chief Baker.[25] Baker also arrested the head of the [26]

Preparations for mass registration commenced in early January, and with King out of town fundraising, were largely under the leadership of Diane Nash. On January 15, King called President Johnson and the two agreed to begin a major push for voting rights legislation which would assist in advancing the passage of more anti-poverty legislation.[24] After King returned to Selma, the first big "Freedom Day" of the new campaign occurred on January 18.

The Selma Voting Rights Campaign officially started on January 2, 1965, when King addressed a mass meeting in [22] Over the following weeks, SCLC and SNCC activists expanded voter registration drives and protests in Selma and the adjacent Black Belt counties.

Events of January

The hardline of segregation was represented by Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, who used violence and repression to maintain Jim Crow. He commanded a posse of 200 deputies, some of whom were members of Ku Klux Klan chapters or the National States' Rights Party. Possemen were armed with electric cattle-prods. Some were mounted on horseback and carried long leather whips they used to lash people on foot. Clark and Chief Baker were known to spar over jurisdiction. Baker's police patrolled the city except for the block of the county courthouse, which Clark and his deputies controlled. Outside the city limits, Clark and his volunteer posse were in complete control in the county.[23]

Selma had both moderate and hardline segregationists in its white power structure. The newly elected Mayor Joseph Smitherman was a moderate who hoped to attract Northern business investment, and he was very conscious of the city's image. Smitherman appointed veteran lawman Wilson Baker to head the city's 30-man police force. Baker believed that the most effective method of undermining civil rights protests was to de-escalate them and deny them publicity, as Police Chief Laurie Pritchett had done against the Albany Movement in Georgia. He earned what was described as a grudging respect from activists.

Since the rejection of voting status for the [22]

When SCLC officially accepted the invitation from the local activist group, the "Courageous 8" (Ulysses S. Blackmon, Sr., Amelia Boynton, Ernest Doyle, Marie Foster, James Gildersleeve, J.D. Hunter, Sr., Dr. Frederick Douglas Reese, Sr., and Henry Shannon, Sr.), to bring their organization to Selma, Bevel, Nash, Orange, and others in SCLC began working in Selma in December 1964. They also worked in the surrounding counties, along with the SNCC staff who had been active there since early 1963.

With civil rights activity blocked by Judge Hare's injunction, James Bevel, Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education; Diane Nash, and James Orange, had already been working on Bevel's Alabama Voting Rights Project since late 1963. King and the executive board of SCLC had not joined it.[5][20]


1965 campaign launched


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.