Today marks the 54th anniversary of one of the best and worst moments of American history, “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama.
Worst in the sense that it shows how incredibly mean and stupid some people could be, and best in showing the bravery and toughness to overcome that stupidity.
Even though the right to vote was granted to African Americans by the 15th amendment a century before, it was still extremely difficult for them to vote in places like Alabama 100 years later. There were poll taxes, literacy tests, and all kinds of other methods used to prevent African Americans from voting.
Marchers gathered at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, determined to march 65 miles to the State Capitol in Montgomery Alabama. Alabama state troopers waited on the other side of the bridge with billy clubs, and made it clear that if the marchers proceeded, they would be beaten by them. Alabama Governor George Wallace was there to make sure the state troopers followed through on his wishes of not allowing the march to proceed.
By the way, Edmund Pettus was a leader in the KKK, and the last Confederate General to serve in the United States Senate.
They marched anyway, straight in to the troopers and their billy clubs. They were brutally and mercilessly beaten.
And they did it again, and again.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian
Ultimately President Lyndon B. Johnson would have the army go to Alabama to restore order and escort the marchers to Montgomery. This would lead to the very important voting rights act of 1965.
They were led by John Lewis, who is now a U.S. Congressmen from Georgia. Four years ago, on the 50th anniversary, Lewis marched hand in had with President Obama and President George W. Bush back across the Edmund Pettus bridge.
Photo Credit: New York Times
The courage of these marchers still gives me goosebumps.
If you haven’t seen the movie, “Selma”, you should. It does a great job of telling this incredible story.
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