The Selma to Montgomery Marches

On 26 February, 1965 Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being shot by state trooper James Bonard Fowler while protecting his mother from Fowler’s nightstick several days earlier during a peaceful march. On March 7th, in response to the killing some 600 marchers started from Selma, Alabama intending to march to Montgomery in support of equal voting rights.

Albert Turner and Bob Mants are walking directly behind Williams and Lewis. Alabama Media Group

The marchers were led by Amelia Boynton, Hosea Williams, John Lewis and others. They were violently stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by State Troopers and local police. The marchers were tear gassed and beaten with batons as local white onlookers cheered. The match became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

John Lewis, who was severely beaten, later said  “I don’t see how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam—I don’t see how he can send troops to the Congo—I don’t see how he can send troops to Africa and can’t send troops to Selma” 

Later in March 1965, this time accompanied by Alabama National Guard troops and FBI agents, Martin Luther King and thousands of nonviolent activists marched 54 miles from Selma, Alabama to the capitol in Montgomery as part of the campaign for equal voting rights. In Montgomery, King told the assembled crowd of 25,000 and America, “There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled Negroes”

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