Little Bits of History

Bloody Sunday

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 7, 2014
Marching peacefully

Marching peacefully

March 7, 1965: Bloody Sunday arrives in Selma, Alabama. American Civil Rights were being trampled and African-Americans were pushing for a more equitable policy. The sparking of this and the two following marches, all taking place in March 1965 was complex. There were issues with low voter registration among African-Americans and this was a campaign to increase voting rights, especially in the South. These protest marches were also in response to the deaths of Jimmie Lee Jackson (unarmed when shot by an Alabama State Trooper on February 26, 1965) and Rev. James Reeb (beaten while marching in Selma and died two days later from head injuries sustained).

African-Americans formed the Dallas County Voters league (DCVL) in 1963 and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) helped bring people together. Not only blacks marched for their rights. They were supported by whites who believed in civil rights and the intrinsic value of being able to cast a vote in any election. White registrants were not letting blacks register in Alabama. The DCVL asked Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to help with the march. Together, they were able to bring 600 marchers to peacefully protest the exclusion from the electoral process. They were met by state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. All white males over the age of 21 had been called to the courthouse earlier in the day and deputized. They formed a line at the end of the bridge.

The protesters were led by John Lewis and Rev. Hosea Williams. As the reverend tried to speak with the police, he was told there was nothing to discuss and seconds later the police began shoving demonstrators and knocking them to the ground where they were beaten with nightsticks. Tear gas was thrown into the crowd and then police on horseback charged into the chaos. The entire event was televised causing a horrified reaction from outside Alabama. Just two days later, on March 9, a second protest took place with 2,500 people turned back at the bridge.

A third march began on March 16 with protesters heading to Montgomery. They averaged about 10 miles per day along US Route 80. Protesters were protected by 2,000 US Army soldiers and 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command. Also present were FBI agents and Federal Marshals. They arrived in Montgomery on March 24 and made their way to the Alabama State Capitol on March 25. The marches turned the tide of public opinion. The brutal treatment of peacefully marching protesters was transformative. President Lyndon Johnson met with Governor George Wallace to discuss civil rights. Eventually, laws were brought into place that protected the voting right of all citizens regardless of race.

There are those who say to you – we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say we are 172 years late. – Hubert H. Humphrey

Half a century ago, the amazing courage of Rosa Parks, the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King, and the inspirational actions of the civil rights movement led politicians to write equality into the law and make real the promise of America for all her citizens. – David Cameron

Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered as our prince of peace, of civil rights. We owe him something major that will keep his memory alive. – Morgan Freeman

The civil rights movement wasn’t easy for anybody. – Sammy Davis, Jr.

Also on this day: Gilbert and Sullivan – In 1896, The Grand Duke opened at the Savoy Theatre. The last G&S work.
One Ringy-Dingy – In 1876, Bell received a patent for his telephone.
Shrigley Abduction – In 1827, Ellen Turner was kidnapped.
Phyllis Diller – In 1955, the star began an 87 week run at The Purple Onion.

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