Selma to Montgomery marches

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Selma to Montgomery marches
Part of Civil Rights Movement
Bloody Sunday-Alabama police attack.jpeg
Alabama State troopers attack civil-rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965
Date March 7, 1965 – March 25, 1965
Location Edmund Pettus Bridge, U.S. Route 80, Alabama State Capitol, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama
Causes

Obstruction of voter registration for African Americans
Voter registration campaign
Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson

Death of Rev. James Reeb
Goals Voting rights
Methods Strikes, Protest, Protest march
Result Voting Rights Act of 1965
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

DCVL members

SCLC members

SNCC members

The three 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. All three protest marches were attempts to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery.

The voting rights movement in Selma was launched by local African-Americans, who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began registering black voters in 1963. When white resistance to their work proved intractable, the DCVL turned to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who eventually brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965.

The following month Jimmie Lee Jackson, a voting-rights activist, was mortally wounded during a march in Marion, Alabama, inflaming community passions. To defuse and refocus the anger, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma Campaign and had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to Montgomery.[1][2]

The first march took place on March 7, 1965; it gained the nickname "Bloody Sunday" after its 600 marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march took place March 9; police and marchers stood off against one another, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church.[3]

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.[4]

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

Fight for the vote: 1963–64[edit]

Selma is the county seat and major town of Dallas County, Alabama. 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.[5]

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) 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, and the Ku Klux Klan. The methods included a literacy test,[6] economic pressure, and violence. The Society of Saint Edmund, an extremely liberal order of Catholics, were the only whites in Selma who openly supported the voting rights movement.[7] SNCC staff member Don Jelinek later called them “the unsung heroes of the Selma March…who provided the only integrated Catholic church in Selma, and perhaps in the entire Deep South.” [8]

In early 1963, SNCC organizers Bernard and Colia Lafayette arrived in Selma to begin a voter-registration project in cooperation with the DCVL.[5] In mid-June, Bernard was beaten and almost killed by Klansmen 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 on September 15, black students in Selma began sit-ins 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.[9]

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's James Forman 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 and his brother David, and comedian Dick Gregory 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. Justice Department lawyers and FBI agents were present observing on the scene, but took no action against local officials.[10]

On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, declaring segregation illegal, though Jim Crow laws 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 black citizens 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.[11]

Selma Voting Rights Movement[edit]

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

With civil rights activity blocked by Judge Hare's injunction, the DCVL requested the assistance of King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Three of SCLC's main organizers – SCLC's Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education James Bevel, Diane Nash, and James Orange – 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.[12][13]

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. F.D. 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.[citation needed] They also worked in the surrounding counties along with the SNCC staff who had been active there since early 1963.

Ever since the rejection of voting status for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, major tensions between SCLC and SNCC had begun to brew. SCLC ultimately maintained neutrality in the MFDP dispute in order to maintain its warm ties with the Democratic coalition, but much of SNCC now saw themselves in an adversarial position with an American establishment which had scorned grassroots democracy. SNCC's focus was on bottom-up organizing, establishing deep-rooted local power bases through community organizing. They had grown distrustful of SCLC's spectacular mobilizations which were designed to appeal to the national media and Washington DC, but which, most of SNCC believed, did not add up to improvements for the lives of African-Americans on the ground. Nonetheless, SNCC chairman John Lewis (also an SCLC board member), believed mass mobilizations to be invaluable, and urged the group to participate.[14] SNCC called in Fay Bellamy and Silas Norman to be full-time Selma organizers.[15]

Like many large cities in the South, Selma had both moderate and hardline segregationists in its power structure. The newly elected Mayor Smitherman was a moderate looking to attract Northern business investment, and 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 as Police Chief Laurie Pritchett had done against the Albany Movement in Georgia.

The hardline of segregation was represented by Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, who was inclined to maintain Jim Crow through brutal repression. He commanded a posse of 200 deputies, some of whom were members of the Ku Klux Klan or the National States' Rights Party. Possemen were armed with electric cattle-prods and some were mounted on horseback and carried long leather whips they could use to lash people on foot. Clark and Chief Baker Baker were known to spar over jurisdiction. Baker's police patrolled the city except for the block where the county courthouse sits, which Clark and his deputies controlled. Outside the city limits, Clark and his volunteer posse were in complete control.[16]

The Selma Voting Rights Movement officially started on January 2, 1965, when King addressed a mass meeting in Brown Chapel in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction. The date had been chosen because Sheriff Clark was out of town, and Chief Baker had stated he would not enforce the injunction.[17] Over the following weeks, SCLC and SNCC activists expanded voter registration drives and protests in Selma and the adjacent Black Belt counties.

Preparations for mass registration commenced in early January, and with King out of town fundraising, were largely under the leadership of Diane Nash. In mid-January, King returned, and the first big "Freedom Day" of the new campaign occurred on January 18. 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 Wilson Baker.[18] Baker also arrested the head of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, who said he'd come to Selma to "run King out of town." [19]

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

Up to this point, the overwhelming majority of registrants and marchers were 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 in mass. 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. [21]

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 then captured 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 violated nonviolent discipline, the movement rallied around her. James Bevel, speaking at a mass meeting, deplored her actions because "Then [the press] don't talk about the registration." [22] However, when asked about the incident by Jet magazine, Bevel said that “Not everybody who registers is nonviolent; not everybody who registers is supposed to be nonviolent.” [23] The incident between Clark and Cooper was a media sensation, putting the campaign on the front page of The New York Times.[24] 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." [25]

Dr. King decided at this point that he would make a conscious effort to get arrested. 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 to nearby Perry County, where 700 students and adults, including James Orange, were arrested.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28]

After the January assault on Dr. King by a white supremacist in Selma, Malcolm X had sent an open telegram to George Lincoln Rockwell stating: "if your present racist agitation against our people there in Alabama causes physical harm…you and your KKK friends will be met with maximum physical retaliation from those of us who...believe in asserting our right to self-defense-by any means necessary." [29] 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 to kick off the protests on the morning of February 4.[30] Upon Malcolm's arrival, SCLC staff initially wanted to block his talk, but he convinced them that he was not there to undermine their work.[31] During his address, Malcolm warned the protesters about “house negroes” who, he said, were a hindrance to black liberation.[32] Dr. King later said that he thought this was an attack on him,[33] but Malcolm also told Coretta Scott King he thought he would aid the campaign by warning white people what “the alternative” would be if Dr. King failed in Alabama. Bellamy recalled that Malcolm told her he would begin recruiting in Alabama for his Organization of Afro-American Unity later that month (Malcolm was assassinated two weeks later).[34]

On the same morning, 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 one hundred applications per registration day, and guaranteed that all applications received by June 1 would be processed before July.[35] In response to Thomas’ favorable ruling, and in alarm at Malcolm X’s visit, Andrew Young suspended demonstrations. However, Dr. King, in a phone call from jail, told Young that demonstrations must continue. They did so the next day with over 500 arrests. [36] [37] 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 session, and that the Vice-President and the Attorney General would meet with King in the following week.[38]

In addition to Selma, marches and other protests in support of voting rights were held in Perry, Wilcox, Marengo, Greene, and Hale counties. Attempts were made to organize in Lowndes County, but fear of the Klan there was so intense that blacks would not massively support a nonviolent campaign, even after Dr. King made a personal appearance on March 1st.[39]

Overall over 3000 people were arrested protesting between January 1 and February 7, but the number of new black registrants was less than a hundred. 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 crisis that would make a voting rights bill the White House's number one priority. James Bevel and CT Vivian both led dramatic nonviolent confrontations at the courthouse in the second week of February, and Selma students organized themselves after the SCLC leaders were arrested.[40] [41] Nonetheless, 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.” [42]

The first Selma-to-Montgomery March: "Bloody Sunday"[edit]

Jimmie Lee Jackson's death[edit]

On February 18, 1965, C. T. Vivian led a march to the courthouse in Marion, the county seat of Perry County, to protest the arrest of James Orange. 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.[43] All of the street lights in the location were turned off, and state troopers rushed at the protesters attacking them. One of the protesters with Vivian, Jimmie Lee Jackson, fled the scene with his mother to hide in a nearby café. Alabama State Trooper corporal James Bonard Fowler followed Jackson into the café and shot him as he tried to protect his mother. Jackson died eight days later of an infection resulting from the gunshot wound at Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital.[44] Jackson was the only male wage-earner of his household, which lived in extreme poverty. Jackson's father, wife, and children were left with no source of income.

On May 10, 2007, 42 years after the homicide, Fowler was charged with first degree and second degree murder for the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson and subsequently surrendered to authorities.[45] Fowler pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter on November 15, 2010.[46] Mr. Fowler apologized for the shooting but insisted that he had acted in self-defense, believing that Mr. Jackson was trying to grab his gun.[46] Fowler was sentenced to six months in prison.[46]

Initiation and goals of the march[edit]

During a public meeting at Zion Church in Marion on February 28 James Bevel, who was directing the Selma Voting Rights Movement for SCLC, called for a march from Selma to Montgomery to talk to Governor George Wallace directly about Jackson's death, and to ask him if he had ordered the State Troopers to turn off the lights and attack the marchers. Bevel strategized that this would focus the anger and pain of the people of Marion and Selma, some of whom wanted to address Jackson's death with violence, towards a nonviolent goal.[47][48] The marchers also hoped to bring attention to the violations of their Constitutional Rights by marching to Montgomery. Dr. King agreed with Bevel's plan of a march from Selma to Montgomery, which they both knew would be seen as a march for full voting rights, and to ask Governor Wallace to protect black registrants.

SNCC had severe reservations about the march, especially when they heard that King would not be present.[49] They did permit John Lewis to participate, and SNCC provided logistical support such as the use of its Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS) lines and the services of the Medical Committee on Human Rights, organized by SNCC during the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964.[50]

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

"Bloody Sunday" events[edit]

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 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, where they found a wall of state troopers waiting for them on the other side.

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. 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, and mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.[51]

Televised images of the brutal attack presented Americans with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, and roused support for the Selma Voting 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.[52] Overall, seventeen marchers were hospitalized, and the day was nicknamed "Bloody Sunday".

Response to "Bloody Sunday"[edit]

The shameful spectacle caused President Johnson to issue 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 he did not do so.[53]

"Bloody Sunday" brought an increase of support from SNCC as an organization, who put aside their qualms about SCLC's tactics to rally for "the fundamental right of protest."[54] SNCC members organized sit-ins in Washington, DC the following day, occupying the office of Attorney General Katzenbach until they were dragged away.[55]

The Executive Board of the NAACP unanimously passed a resolution the day after "Bloody Sunday" warning that “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.” [56]

Second march: "Turnaround Tuesday"[edit]

Immediately after "Bloody Sunday," Bevel, Nash, King 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 struggles, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Freedom Summer, and shocked by the television images of "Bloody Sunday," hundreds of people responded to SCLC's call.

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, 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.[57] 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, a day that would become known as "Turnaround Tuesday",[58] Dr. 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 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 by four members of the Ku Klux Klan and beaten with clubs.[59] The worst injured was James Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston. 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[edit]

Blacks in Dallas County and the Black Belt mourned the death of Reverend 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 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."

Actions in Montgomery[edit]

With the second march aborted, Tuskegee Institute students decided to open a "Second Front" of the struggle 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, who distrusted King more than ever after the turnaround, and were eager to find a separate course. On March 11, SNCC commenced a series of demonstrations in Montgomery, and put out a national call for others to join them. James Bevel of SCLC followed them and discouraged their activities, bringing him into conflict with Forman. 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 only resolved when both of them were arrested.[60]

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 with brutality, whipping them from their mounted horses. 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 that “If we can’t sit at the table of democracy, we’ll knock the fucking legs off.” [61] [62]

The New York Times featured the Montgomery confrontations on the front page the next day.[63] Although Dr. King was concerned by Forman’s violent rhetoric, he joined him in leading a march of 2000 people to the County courthouse. 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 posse against protesters, and to issue march permits to blacks for the first time.[64] (Governor Wallace did not negotiate, however, and continued to arrest demonstrators that ventured onto Alabama State property.)[65]

Actions at the White House[edit]

On March 11, seven Selma solidarity activists sat-in the East Wing of the White House until arrested.[66] Dozens of other protesters also attempted to occupy the White House that weekend but were stopped by guards; they blocked Pennsylvania Avenue instead. On the 12th, President Johnson had an unusually belligerent meeting with a group of civil rights advocates including Bishop Paul Moore, Reverend Robert Spike, and SNCC representative H. Rap Brown. Johnson complained that the White House protests were disturbing his family. The activists were unsympathetic and demanded to know why he hadn't delivered the voting rights bill to Congress yet, or sent federal troops to Alabama.[67][68] SNCC, CORE, and other groups continued to organize protests in more than eighty cities, including four hundred people blocking the entrances and exits of the Los Angeles Federal Building.[69]

President Johnson told the press that he refused to be "blackjacked" into action by unruly "pressure groups".[70] Nonetheless, he arranged a face to face meeting with Governor Wallace the next day and urged him to use the Alabama National Guard to protect marchers. He also began preparing the final draft of his voting rights bill.[71]

Johnson's decision and the Voting Rights Act[edit]

On March 15, the president convened a joint session of Congress and outlined his new bill on live television. He praised the courage of African-American activists, and called Selma "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom" on par with the Battle of Appomattox. Johnson added that his entire Great Society program, not only the voting rights bill, was part of the civil rights movement. He also adapted 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."[72] His voting rights bill was formally introduced in Congress two days later.

The march to Montgomery[edit]

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."

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

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.[73]

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 the 17th, and the judge issued his order the same day.[74] The president federalized the Alabama National Guard on March 20.[75] He also 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. [76]

On Sunday, March 21, close to 8,000 people assembled at Brown Chapel to commence the trek to Montgomery.[77] 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, Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Maurice Davis, and at least one nun, all of whom were depicted in a famous photo.[59]

In 1965, the road to Montgomery was four lanes wide going east from Selma, then narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County, 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.[78] 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, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Baez and Nina Simone all performing.[79]

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." "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."[80] 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 of them announced that the governor wasn't in. Undeterred, the marchers remained at the entrance until one of Wallace's secretaries appeared and took the petition.

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 abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African Americans involved in the civil rights movement.[81]

Response to the third march[edit]

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 seeking to slander the movement by making spurious charges of 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 pro-segregationist book Selma (Charlotte, 1965).[82]

Hammermill boycott[edit]

During 1965, Martin Luther King was promoting an economic boycott of Alabama products to put pressure on the State to integrate schools and employment.[83] Despite King's urgings, Hammermill paper company announced the opening of a major plant in Selma Alabama during the height of violence in Selma.[84] On February 4, 1965, the Company announced construction of a $35 million plant, allegedly touting the "fine reports the company had received about the character of the community and its people." [85] On March 26, 1965, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee called for a national boycott of Hammermill paper products, until the company reversed what SNCC described as racist policies. King's organization, SCLC joined in support of the boycott.[86] Ultimately, in cooperation with SCLC, student members of Oberlin College Action for Civil Rights,[87] joined with King's group SCLC to conduct picketing and a sit-in at Hammermill's Erie Pennsylvania headquarters. The company responded by calling a meeting of the corporate leadership of Hammermill, SCLC's C.T. Vivian, and Oberlin student leadership, and the meeting led to the signing of an agreement by Hammermill to support integration in Alabama.[88]

Historical impact[edit]

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail sign.

The marches had a powerful effect in Washington. After witnessing TV coverage of "Bloody Sunday," President Lyndon Baines Johnson met with Governor George Wallace 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. Johnson's speech in front of Congress was considered to be a watershed moment for the civil rights movement.

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.[89][90]:278[91]

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 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.[89]

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 was voted out of office in 1966 (he later served a prison sentence for drug smuggling).[92]

In 1960, there were just 53,336 black voters in the state of Alabama; three decades later, there were 537,285,[93] a tenfold increase.

In 1996, the 54-mile Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail was established, preserved by the National Park Service.[94] As part of the National Historic Trail, the National Park Service operates two interpretive centers (Selma and Lownes County) and is planning to operate a Montgomery center that will be located on the campus of Alabama State University.

Media based on the marches[edit]

Eyes on the Prize, a 14-hour PBS documentary narrated by Julian Bond, premiered in 1987. The sixth episode, Bridge to Freedom centers on 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 was nominated for an Academy award.[95]

Selma, Lord, Selma, the first dramatic feature film based on events surrounding the Selma to Montgomery marches, is a Disney production first broadcast on January 17, 1999 by ABC television.[96] Critical reception varied. The Philadelphia Tribune praised the portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Clifton Powell and the "…heart-wrenching performance" by Jurnee Smollett.[97] The Boston Globe used harsh words: "…never rises above the level of a Classic Comics version of civil rights history.",[98] while The Rocky Mountain News was less judgmental: "(Selma) …offers a sense of authenticity…".[99]

Selma, a film slated for limited theatrical release December 25, 2014 followed by wide release January 9, 2015, will feature events and personalities surrounding the Selma to Montgomery marches and the creation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

March is a three-part graphic novel autobiography published by Top Shelf Productions about John Lewis, that 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.[100]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "James L. Bevel The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement" by Randy Kryn, a paper in David Garrow's 1989 book We Shall Overcome, Volume II, Carlson Publishing Company
  2. ^ "Movement Revision Research Summary Regarding James Bevel" by Randy Kryn, October 2005 published by Middlebury College
  3. ^ Branch, Taylor (2013). The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Simon & Schuster. 
  4. ^ Davis, Townsend (1998). Weary Feet, Rested Souls. W.W. Norton. 
  5. ^ a b Selma — Breaking the Grip of Fear ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  6. ^ Are You "Qualified" to Vote? The Alabama "Literacy Test" ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  7. ^ "Edmundite Southern Missions" Encyclopedia of Alabama
  8. ^ Don Jelinek, “Oral History/Interview, 2005-Selma Underground: Fathers of St. Edmund”, Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  9. ^ Freedom Day in Selma ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  10. ^ Zinn, Howard (1965). SNCC The New Abolitionists. Beacon Press. 
  11. ^ The Selma Injunction ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans.
  12. ^ "James L. Bevel The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement" by Randall Kryn, a paper in David Garrow's 1989 book We Shall Overcome, Volume II, Carlson Publishing Company
  13. ^ "Movement Revision Research Summary Regarding James Bevel" by Randy Kryn, October 2005 published by Middlebury College
  14. ^ "1965-SCLC and SNCC" Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  15. ^ "1965-Breaking the Selma Injunction" Civil Right Movement Veterans Timeline
  16. ^ "1965-Selma on the Eve" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  17. ^ "1965-Breaking the Selma Injunction" Civil Right Movement Veterans Timeline
  18. ^ "1965-Marching to the Courthouse" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  19. ^ United Press International "King Struck, Kicked During Racial Drive" Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1965
  20. ^ "1965-Marching to the Courthouse" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  21. ^ "1965-Teachers March" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  22. ^ "1965-Annie Cooper and Sheriff Clark" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  23. ^ Jet, February 11, 1965
  24. ^ David Garrow, Protest at Selma (Yale University Press, 1978), p. 45
  25. ^ Jet, February 11, 1965
  26. ^ "1965-Letter from a Selma Jail" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  27. ^ "The Alabama Struggle" SNCC pamphlet
  28. ^ "1965-Letter from a Selma Jail" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  29. ^ Christopher Strain, Pure Fire:Self-Defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era (University of Georgia Press, 2005), pp. 92-93
  30. ^ Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 578-579
  31. ^ Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 578-579
  32. ^ video of speech on Youtube
  33. ^ Clayborne Carson "The Unfinished Dialogue of Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X" Souls 7 (1): 12–19, 2005
  34. ^ Alvin Adams "Malcolm 'seemed sincere'" Jet, Mar 11, 1965
  35. ^ Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 578-579
  36. ^ Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965 (Simon and Shuster, 1999), p. 580-581
  37. ^ "1965-Bound in Jail" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  38. ^ Gary May, Bending Towards Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 69
  39. ^ "1965-Cracking Lowndes" Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
  40. ^ "1965-Bound in Jail; Clubs and Cattleprods; Holding on and Pushing Forward" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  41. ^ David Garrow, Protest at Selma (Yale University Press, 1978), p. 58
  42. ^ David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross:Martin Luther King Jr and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Jonathan Cape, 1988), p. 389
  43. ^ Halberstam, David. The Children, Random House, 1998, p. 502.
  44. ^ Fleming, John (March 6, 2005). "The Death of Jimmie Lee Jackson". The Anniston Star. 
  45. ^ "Nation in Brief: Indictment Brought in Civil-Rights-Era Death". Washington Post. 10 May 2007. pp. A08. Retrieved 2008-01-21 
  46. ^ a b c Brown, Robbie (15 November 2010). "45 Years Later, an Apology and 6 Months". New York Times. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  47. ^ Kryn in Garrow, 1989
  48. ^ Kryn, 2005
  49. ^ "1965-Tensions Escalate" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  50. ^ "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Alabama (SNCC)" Encyclopedia of Alabama
  51. ^ National Park Service
  52. ^ "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..."
  53. ^ Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant:Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (Oxford University Press, 1998), p.215-217
  54. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968 (Simon and Shuster, 2006), p. 73
  55. ^ Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-1968 (Simon and Shuster, 2006), p. 59-65
  56. ^ “Selma Outrage Condemned,” The Crisis, Vol. 72, No. 4, April 1965
  57. ^ See Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 1967, citing Howat v. Kansas, 258 U.S. 181 (1922).
  58. ^ "Martin Luther King and the Global Freedom Struggle". Stanford University: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. Retrieved October 16, 2012. 
  59. ^ a b The March to Montgomery ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  60. ^ "1965-Students March in Montgomery; Confrontation at Dexter Church" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  61. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 107, 126
  62. ^ "1965-Protests and Police Violence Continue in Montgomery; Brutal Attack in Montgomery" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  63. ^ "1965-Wednesday, March 17" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  64. ^ >Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 129
  65. ^ "1965-Wednesday, March 17" Civil Rights Movement Veterans History and Timeline
  66. ^ "The President's Daily Diary: March 11, 1965" LBJ Library and Museum
  67. ^ Ekwueme Michael Thelwell "H. Rap Brown/ Jamil Al-Amin: A Profoundly American Story" The Nation, February 28, 2002
  68. ^ Branch, At Canaan's Edge, p. 93
  69. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 94
  70. ^ Robert Young, "Johnson won't be 'blackjacked into force by pressure groups'" Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1965
  71. ^ Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant:Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (Oxford University Press, 1998), p.215-217
  72. ^ "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.]"
  73. ^ Williams v. Wallace, 240 F. Supp. 100, 106 (M.D. Ala. 1960).
  74. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 127-128
  75. ^ Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant:Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 (Oxford University Press, 1998), p.218
  76. ^ Gary May, Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013) p. 130
  77. ^ Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail – National Park Service
  78. ^ Cobb, Charles E. (2008). On the Road to Freedom. Algonquin Books. 
  79. ^ Tankersley, Mike (March 25, 2012). "City of St. Jude is just wild about Harry". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  80. ^ Selma to Montgomery March – King Research & Education Center at Stanford University
  81. ^ Mary Stanton, FROM SELMA TO SORROW: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo, University of Georgia Press, 2000
  82. ^ Mikkel's book was published with a colorized photograph showing splotches of blood drawn in on Viola Liuzzo's car. See Jane Dailey. "Sex, Segregation, and the Sacred after Brown". The Journal of American History 91.1.
  83. ^ Fredrick, Stand Up for Alabama, page 126
  84. ^ Selma to be Southern Operations Base
  85. ^ Student Voice
  86. ^ Jet, May 27, 1965.
  87. ^ The Activist Consensus
  88. ^ The Best Known Name in Paper, Hammermill
  89. ^ a b Weinstein, Allen (2002). The Story of America: Freedom and Crisis from Settlement to Superpower. DK Publishing, Inc. 
  90. ^ Williams, Juan (2002). Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Penguin Books. ISBN 0140096531. 
  91. ^ Wicker, Tom (15 March 1965). "Johnson Urges Congress at Joint Session to Pass Law Insuring Negro Vote". New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  92. ^ Rawls, Phillip (June 6, 2007). "Ala. Ex-Sheriff Dies; Civil Rights Foe". The Washington Post. Associated Press. 
  93. ^ Selma-to-Montgomery 1965 Voting Rights March – Alabama Department of Archives & History
  94. ^ http://www.nps.gov/semo/historyculture/index.htm
  95. ^ "Eyes on the Prize". The American Experience. PBS. August 23, 2006. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 
  96. ^ "'Selma, Lord, Selma' airs Jan. 17: The horror and legacy of Bloody Sunday brought to life". Pittsburg New Courier (Pittsburgh, PA). December 30, 1998.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  97. ^ "Selma, Lord, Selma: Disney remembers King; Movie tracks struggle for voting rights". The Philadelphia Tribune (Philadelphia, PA). January 15, 1999.   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  98. ^ Koch, John (January 16, 1999). "`Selma' tale oversimplifies rights drama". The Boston Globe (Boston, MA).   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  99. ^ Saunders, Dusty (January 17, 1999). "Areas of Beleagured Wonderful Disney". Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO).   – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  100. ^ Cavna, Michael (August 12, 2013). "In the graphic novel 'March,' Rep. John Lewis renders a powerful civil rights memoir". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 

External links[edit]