Civil rights protesters beaten in “Bloody Sunday” attack in Selma Alabama marching to the city of Montgomery–the place where I was born, raised and lived for forty years before relocating to another state.
On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ends in violence when marchers are attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day’s events became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The demonstrators—led by civil rights activists John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—were commemorating the recent fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, by state trooper James Bonard Fowler. The group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, police assaulted them with tear gas, bullwhips and billy clubs. Lewis, then 25, was one of 17 marchers hospitalized; dozens more were treated for injuries.
The violence was broadcast on TV and recounted in newspapers, spurring demonstrations in 80 cities across the nation within days. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke on the need for voting reform, something activists in Selma had long been fighting for: “There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. We have already waited 100 years and more, and the time for waiting is gone.”
King completed the march to Montgomery, along with 25,000 demonstrators, on March 25, under the protection of the U.S. military and the FBI. The route is now a U.S. National Historic Trail. Prodded by what Johnson called “the outrage of Selma,” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law five months later, with the purpose to “right that wrong.” Lewis became a U.S. congressman from Georgia in 1986; he died in 2020.
Many people are not familiar with Black History because it was not allowed to be taught in our schools. However, I am very familiar with Bloody Sunday and other historical events that took place in Montgomery hearing stories told by relatives. I remember when I was a small child helping my mother pick cotton on Day Street in Montgomery.
I am taking time to learn more about Black history, and it really helps to be married to a history major–a walking history book. He is not only knowledgeable of Black history but world history. I do not believe there are history questions and dates of events and wars he cannot answer.
Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images
4 thoughts on “Bloody Sunday”
Tangie, this blog immensely needed! I have passed it on to many people thus far. The continuous of passing on our history is a “Must”! I would love your husband to share his wisdom! Amazing.
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Hi Pam, thank you for reading, sharing and commenting. You are right, the schools will not allow our history to be taught so we must pass it on so they know their history and lives lost. Perhaps, just maybe, there will not be so much Black-on-Black crimes. Felton loves history.
I was 13 years old when this happened. I lived in a small town in Southern New Jersey. I never saw this kind of hate growing up. For that I am very thankful. In 1969, I went off to college in the South. This is where I was first exposed to real prejudice. I took a stand with other black students who were fighting for justice. (That’s a long story.) I admire MLK immensely. (If only he was still around to guide.) Thanks for posting this article. We must never forget. God help America. Blessings, Tangie!