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Selma to Montgomery marches

Selma to Montgomery marches

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The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma
Selma, Alabama
Selma is a city in and the county seat of Dallas County, Alabama, United States, located on the banks of the Alabama River. The population was 20,512 at the 2000 census....

, Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). In 1963, the DCVL and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

 (SNCC) began voter-registration work. When white resistance to Black voter registration proved intractable, the DCVL requested the assistance of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

 and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

, who brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to support voting rights.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965 — "Bloody Sunday" — when 600 civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 marchers were attacked by state and local police
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 with billy clubs and tear gas.

The marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80
U.S. Route 80
U.S. Route 80 is an east–west United States highway, much of which was once part of the early auto trail known as the Dixie Overland Highway. As the "0" in the route number indicates, it was originally a cross-country route, from the Atlantic to the Pacific...

, known in Alabama as the "Jefferson Davis Highway". 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, they arrived in Montgomery on March 24, and at the Alabama Capitol building on March 25.

The route is memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, a U.S. National Historic Trail
National Historic Trail
National Historic Trail is a designation for a protected area in the United States containing historic trails and surrounding areas. They are part of the National Trails System....

.

Struggle For the Vote: 1963–64


Selma is the county seat and major town of Dallas County, Alabama
Dallas County, Alabama
Dallas County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of United States Secretary of the Treasury Alexander J. Dallas. The county seat is Selma.- History :...

. 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.

Led by the Boynton family (Amelia, Sam, and son Bruce), Rev. L.L. Anderson, J.L. Chestnut, and Marie Foster
Marie Foster
Marie Foster was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. during the 1960s. She was instrumental in helping to register many African American voters in Selma, Alabama, and was one of the primary local organizers of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965...

, the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) attempted to register black citizens during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their efforts were blocked by state and local officials, the White Citizens' Council
White Citizens' Council
The White Citizens' Council was an American white supremacist organization formed on July 11, 1954. After 1956, it was known as the Citizens' Councils of America...

, and the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

. The methods included a literacy test
Literacy test
A literacy test, in the context of United States political history, refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level. The federal government first employed literacy tests as part of the immigration process...

, economic pressure, and violence.

In early 1963, SNCC
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

 organizers Bernard and Colia Lafayette arrived in Selma to begin a voter-registration project in cooperation with the DCVL. In mid-June, Bernard was beaten and almost killed by Klansmen
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

 determined to prevent blacks from voting. When the Lafayettes returned to school in the fall, SNCC organizers Prathia Hall and Worth Long carried on the work despite arrests, beatings, and death threats. When 32 black school teachers applied to register as voters, they were immediately fired by the all-white school board. After the Birmingham church bombing
16th Street Baptist Church bombing
The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the U.S...

 on September 15, black students in Selma began sit-in
Sit-in
A sit-in or sit-down is a form of protest that involves occupying seats or sitting down on the floor of an establishment.-Process:In a sit-in, protesters remain until they are evicted, usually by force, or arrested, or until their requests have been met...

s at local lunch counters where they were attacked and arrested. More than 300 were arrested in two weeks of protests, including SNCC Chairman John Lewis.

October 7, 1963, was one of the two days per month that citizens were allowed to go to the courthouse to apply to register to vote. SNCC and the DCVL mobilized over 300 Dallas County blacks to line up at the voter registration office in what was called a "Freedom Day". Supporting them were author James Baldwin
James Baldwin (writer)
James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic.Baldwin's essays, for instance "Notes of a Native Son" , explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th century America,...

 and his brother David, and comedian Dick Gregory
Dick Gregory
Richard Claxton "Dick" Gregory is an American comedian, social activist, social critic, writer, and entrepreneur....

 and his wife Lillian (who was 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 the applications were denied.

On July 2, 1964, President Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

 into law, which declared segregation illegal, yet Jim Crow
Jim Crow laws
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for black Americans...

 remained in effect. When attempts to integrate Selma's dining and entertainment venues were resumed, blacks who tried to attend the movie theater and eat at the hamburger stand were beaten and arrested.

On July 6, John Lewis led 50 blacks to the courthouse on registration day, but Sheriff Clark arrested them rather than allow them to apply to vote. On July 9, Judge James Hare issued an injunction forbidding any gathering of three or more people under the sponsorship of civil rights organizations or leaders. This injunction made it illegal to even talk to more than two people at a time about civil rights or voter registration in Selma, suppressing public civil rights activity there for the next six fateful months.

Planning the First March



With civil rights activity blocked by Judge Hare's injunction, the DCVL requested the assistance of King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

 (SCLC). Three of SCLC's main organizers Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education James Bevel
James Bevel
James L. Bevel was an American minister and leader of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement who, as the Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference initiated, strategized, directed, and developed SCLC's three major successes of the era:...

, Diane Nash
Diane Nash
Diane Judith Nash was a leader and strategist of the student wing of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. A historian described her as: "…bright, focused, utterly fearless, with an unerring instinct for the correct tactical move at each increment of the crisis; as a leader, her instincts had been...

, and James Orange
James Orange
James Edward Orange, MLK March website biography. Accessed 2008-02-17. was a pastor and a leading civil rights activist in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in America.-Personal life:...

had been working on Bevel's Alabama Voting Rights Project since late 1963, a project which King and the executive board of SCLC had not joined. When SCLC officially accepted Amelia Boynton's invitation 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.

The Selma Voting Rights Movement officially started on January 2, 1965, when King addressed a mass meeting in Brown Chapel
Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church (Selma, Alabama)
Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church is a church in Selma, Alabama, United States. This church was a starting point for the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 and, as the meeting place and offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Selma Movement, played a major role in the events...

 in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction.

Over the following weeks, SCLC and SNCC activists expanded voter registration drives and protests in Selma and the adjacent Black Belt
Black Belt (region of Alabama)
The Black Belt is a region of the U.S. state of Alabama, and part of the larger Black Belt Region of the Southern United States, which stretches from Texas to Maryland. The term originally referred to the region underlain by a thin layer of rich, black topsoil developed atop the chalk of the Selma...

 counties. In addition to Selma, marches and other protests in support of voting rights were held in Perry
Perry County, Alabama
Perry County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It was established in 1819, and is named in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry of Rhode Island and the United States Navy. As of 2010 the population was 10,591...

, Wilcox
Wilcox County, Alabama
Wilcox County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of Lieutenant J. M. Wilcox, who fought in the wars against the Creek tribe. As of 2010, the population was 11,670...

, Marengo
Marengo County, Alabama
Marengo County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of a battlefield near Turin, Italy, where the French defeated the Austrians on June 14, 1800. As of 2010 the population was 21,027...

, Greene
Greene County, Alabama
Greene County is the least populous county in the U.S. state of Alabama. Its name is in honor of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island. As of 2010 the population was 9,045...

, and Hale
Hale County, Alabama
Hale County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of Confederate officer Stephen Fowler Hale. As of 2010 the population was 15,760. Its county seat is Greensboro and it is part of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area....

 counties.

On February 18, 1965, C. T. Vivian
C. T. Vivian
Cordy Tindell Vivian is a minister, author, and was a close friend and lieutenant of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. during the American Civil Rights Movement. Vivian continues to reside in Atlanta, Georgia and most recently founded the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute, Inc. Rev...

 led a march to the courthouse in Marion
Marion, Alabama
Marion is the county seat of Perry County, Alabama. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 3,511. First called Muckle Ridge, the city was renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Francis Marion.-Geography:...

, the county seat of Perry County. State officials had received orders to target Vivian specifically, and so a line of Alabama state troopers waited for the marchers at the Perry County courthouse. All the street lights in that location turned off at once, and the state troopers rushed at the protesters and attacked them. One of the protesters with Vivian, Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a civil rights protestor who was shot and killed by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler in 1965. Jackson was unarmed. His death inspired the Selma to Montgomery marches, an important event in the American Civil Rights movement. He was 26 years old.-Personal...

, fled the scene with his mother to hide in a nearby café. Alabama State Trooper, corporal James Bonard Fowler
James Bonard Fowler
James Bonard Fowler became a significant player in escalating the acute racial conflict that led to the Selma to Montgomery marches in the American Civil Rights Movement...

, followed Jackson into the café and shot him as he tried to protect his mother. Jackson died eight days later, of an infection
Infection
An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

 resulting from the gunshot wound, at Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital.. Jackson was the only male wage-earner of his household, which lived in extreme poverty
Extreme poverty
Extreme poverty, as defined in 1996 by Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World, is:"The lack of basic security connotes the absence of one or more factors enabling individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights. The situation may become...

. Jackson's father, wife and children were left with no source of income. After bringing this story to the attention of the SCLC, James Bevel called for a march from Selma to Montgomery to confront Governor Wallace directly about this death.

Goals of the march


Bevel's plan was to march to Montgomery to ask Governor George Wallace
George Wallace
George Corley Wallace, Jr. was the 45th Governor of Alabama, serving four terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. "The most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter and Stephan Lesher, he ran for U.S...

 if he had anything to do with ordering the lights out and the state troopers to shoot during the march in which Jackson was killed. Bevel called the march in order to focus the anger and pain of the people of Selma, some of whom wanted to address Jackson's death with violence, towards a nonviolent goal. The marchers also hoped to bring attention to the violations of their rights
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 by marching to Montgomery. Dr. King agreed with Bevel's plan, and asked for a march from Selma to Montgomery to ask Governor Wallace to protect black registrants.

Wallace denounced the march as a threat to public safety and declared he would take all measures necessary to prevent this from happening.

The First March: "Bloody Sunday"


On March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Highway 80. The march was led by John Lewis of SNCC and the Reverend Hosea Williams
Hosea Williams
Hosea Lorenzo Williams was a United States civil rights leader, ordained minister, businessman, philanthropist, scientist and politician...

 of SCLC, followed by Bob Mants of SNCC and Albert Turner of SCLC. The protest went smoothly until the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge
Edmund Pettus Bridge
The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a bridge that carries U.S. Highway 80 across the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama. Built in 1940, it is named for Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate brigadier general and U.S. Senator from Alabama. The bridge is a steel through arch bridge with a central span of...

 and found a wall of state troopers waiting for them on the other side. Sheriff Jim Clark
Jim Clark (sheriff)
James Gardner Clark, Jr. of Selma, Alabama, was the sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama from 1955 to 1966. He was one of the officials responsible for the violent arrests of civil rights protestors duringthe Selma to Montgomery marches.-Early life:Clark served with the U.S...

 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. 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. Many were knocked to the ground and beaten with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.

Televised images of the brutal attack presented people with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, and roused support for the U.S. civil rights movement. Amelia Boynton was beaten and gassed nearly to death; her photo appeared on the front page of newspapers and news magazines around the world. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized, and the day was nicknamed "Bloody Sunday".

Second March


Immediately after "Bloody Sunday," King began organizing a second march to be held on Tuesday, March 9, 1965. He issued a call for clergy and citizens from across the country to join him. Awakened to issues of civil and voting rights by years of Civil Rights struggles
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
The African-American Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring voting rights to them. This article covers the phase of the movement between 1955 and 1968, particularly in the South...

 — from the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political and social protest campaign that started in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, USA, intended to oppose the city's policy of racial segregation on its public transit system. Many important figures in the civil rights movement were involved in the boycott,...

 to Freedom Summer
Freedom Summer
Freedom Summer was a campaign in the United States launched in June 1964 to attempt to register as many African American voters as possible in Mississippi which had historically excluded most blacks from voting...

 — and shocked by the television images of "Bloody Sunday," many hundreds of people responded to King's call.

To prevent another outbreak of violence, the marchers attempted to gain a court order
Court order
A court order is an official proclamation by a judge that defines the legal relationships between the parties to a hearing, a trial, an appeal or other court proceedings. Such ruling requires or authorizes the carrying out of certain steps by one or more parties to a case...

 that would prohibit the police from interfering. Instead of issuing the court order, Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson
Frank Minis Johnson
Frank Minis Johnson, Jr. was a United States Federal judge, made a number of landmark civil rights rulings that helped end segregation in the South...

 issued a restraining order
Restraining order
A restraining order or order of protection is a form of legal injunction that requires a party to do, or to refrain from doing, certain acts. A party that refuses to comply with an order faces criminal or civil penalties and may have to pay damages or accept sanctions...

, preventing the march from taking place until he could hold additional hearings later in the week.

Based on past experience, SCLC was confident that Judge Johnson would eventually lift the restraining order and they did not want to alienate one of the few southern judges who was often sympathetic to their cause by violating his injunction. There was also insufficient infrastructure in place to support a long march, one for which the marchers were ill-equipped. Further, a person who violates a court order may be punished for contempt even if the order is later reversed. But movement supporters, both local and from around the country, were determined to march on Tuesday to protest the "Bloody Sunday" violence and the systematic denial of black voting rights in Alabama. To balance these conflicting imperatives, SCLC decided to hold a partial "ceremonial" march that would cross over the bridge but halt when ordered to do so in compliance with the injunction.

On March 9, King led about 2,500 marchers out to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and held a short prayer session before turning the marchers back around, thereby obeying the court order preventing them from marching all the way to Montgomery. But only the SCLC
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

 leaders were told of this plan in advance, causing confusion and consternation among many marchers, including those who had traveled long distances to participate and put their bodies on the line in nonviolent opposition to police brutality. King asked them to remain in Selma for another attempt at the march once the injunction was lifted.

That evening, three white ministers who had come for the march were attacked and beaten with clubs. The worst injured was James Reeb
James Reeb
James Reeb was a white American Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, Massachusetts and pastor and civil rights activist in Washington, DC. While marching for civil rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965, he was beaten severely by segregationists and died of head injuries two days later in the...

, a white Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

. Selma's public hospital refused to treat Rev. Reeb, who had to be taken to Birmingham's University Hospital, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University Hospital with his wife by his side.

Response to the Second March


Blacks in Dallas County and the Black Belt mourned the death of Rev. 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 Reeb's murder, but had paid scant attention to the killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson. SNCC
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

 spokesman [Stokely Carmichael] was reported as saying "What you want is the nation to be upset when anybody is killed… but it almost [seems that] for this to be recognized, a white person must be killed."

Third March


A week after Reeb's death, March 16, Judge Johnson ruled in favor of the protestors, saying their First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 right to march in protest could not be abridged by the state of Alabama:
The law is clear that the right to petition
Right to petition
The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.-United States:...

 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.
Williams v. Wallace, 240 F. Supp. 100, 106 (M.D. Ala. 1960).


On March 21, close to 8,000 people assembled at Brown Chapel to commence the trek to Montgomery. Most of the participants were black, but some were white and some were Asian and Latino. Spiritual leaders of multiple races religions and faith marched abreast with Dr. King, including Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth
Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson, was a U.S. civil rights activist who led the fight against segregation and other forms of racism as a minister in Birmingham, Alabama...

, Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century.-Biography:...

 and Maurice Davis, and at least one nun
Nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...

, all of whom were depicted in a famous photo. In 1965, the road to Montgomery was four lanes wide going east from Selma, then narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County
Lowndes County, Alabama
Lowndes County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is named in honor of William Lowndes, a member of the United States Congress from South Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,299...

, and then widened to four lanes again at 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, so 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 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. At the same time there were 2,240 whites registered to vote in Lowndes County, 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).

On the morning of the 24th, 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.

That night on a makeshift stage, a "Stars for Freedom" rally was held, with singers Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte
Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s...

, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

, Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine
Frankie Laine, born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio , was a successful American singer, songwriter, and actor whose career spanned 75 years, from his first concerts in 1930 with a marathon dance company to his final performance of "That's My Desire" in 2005...

, Peter, Paul and Mary
Peter, Paul and Mary
Peter, Paul and Mary were an American folk-singing trio whose nearly 50-year career began with their rise to become a paradigm for 1960s folk music. The trio was composed of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers...

, Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Samuel George "Sammy" Davis Jr. was an American entertainer and was also known for his impersonations of actors and other celebrities....

 and Nina Simone
Nina Simone
Eunice Kathleen Waymon , better known by her stage name Nina Simone , was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music...

 all performing.

On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people marched from St. Jude to the steps of the State Capitol Building
Alabama State Capitol
The Alabama State Capitol, also known as the First Confederate Capitol, is the state capitol building for Alabama. It is located on Capitol Hill, originally Goat Hill, in Montgomery. It was declared a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960....

 where King delivered the speech "How Long, Not Long
How Long, Not Long
"How Long, Not Long" is the popular name given to the public speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965...

." "The end we seek," King told the crowd, "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."

Later that night, Viola Liuzzo
Viola Liuzzo
Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo was a Unitarian Universalist civil rights activist from Michigan, who was murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama...

, a white mother of five from Detroit who had come to Alabama to support voting rights for blacks, was assassinated by Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan, often abbreviated KKK and informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically...

 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
COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological...

 operation spread false rumors that Liuzzo was a member of the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 and abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement.

Response to the Third March


The third march spread the marchers' message without harassment by police and segregation supporters. These factors, along with more widespread support from other civil rights organizations in the area, made the march an overall success and gave the demonstration greater impact.

U.S. Representative William Louis Dickinson made two speeches to Congress on March 30 and April 27 reporting alcohol abuse, bribery, and widespread sexual debauchery at the marches. Religious leaders present at the marches denied the charges, and local and national journalists were unable to substantiate his accounts. The allegations of segregation supporters were collected in Robert M. Mikell's book Selma (Charlotte, 1965).

Historical Impact



The marches shifted public opinion about the Civil Rights movement. The images of Alabama law enforcement beating the nonviolent protesters were shown all over the country and the world by television networks and newspapers. The visuals of such brutality being carried out by the state of Alabama helped shift the image of the segregationist movement from one of a movement trying to preserve the social order of the South to a system of state-endorsed terrorism against non-whites.

The marches also had a powerful effect in Washington. After witnessing TV coverage of "Bloody Sunday," President Lyndon Baines Johnson met with Governor George Wallace
George Wallace
George Corley Wallace, Jr. was the 45th Governor of Alabama, serving four terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. "The most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter and Stephan Lesher, he ran for U.S...

 in Washington to discuss with him the civil rights situation in his state. He tried to persuade Wallace to stop the state harassment of the protesters. Two nights later, on March 15, 1965, Johnson presented a bill to a joint session of Congress. The bill itself would later pass and become the Voting Rights Act
Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S....

. Johnson's speech in front of Congress was considered to be a watershed moment for the civil rights movement; Johnson even used the movement's most famous slogan "We shall overcome".


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.


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 SCLC
SCLC
SCLC may refer to:* The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an American civil rights organization* Small cell carcinoma of the lung* San Cristóbal de las Casas, a city in Chiapas, Mexico* Supply Chain Leadership Collaboration...

 activist C.T. Vivian, who was with King when the speech was broadcast,


...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.


The bill became law at 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.

In Selma, where more than 7,000 blacks were added to the voting rolls after passage of the Act, Sheriff Jim Clark
Jim Clark (sheriff)
James Gardner Clark, Jr. of Selma, Alabama, was the sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama from 1955 to 1966. He was one of the officials responsible for the violent arrests of civil rights protestors duringthe Selma to Montgomery marches.-Early life:Clark served with the U.S...

 was voted out of office in 1966 (he later served a prison sentence for drug smuggling).

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

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