Selma 50 Years Later: A March, A Speech, A Remembrance

The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, overflowed with marchers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 peaceful African-American protesters were beaten and tear-gassed. The unprovoked violence in Selma, which was perpetrated by white law enforcement officers, struck a chord nationally. The Selma march proved to be a turning point in the Civil Rights movement.

A crowd of 70,000 marched ahead of political and religious leaders who were supposed to lead the Selma march. Today, as 50 years ago, people of all races came together in the name of social justice in Selma.

A KKK billboard inviting visitors to Selma’s War Between the States Historic Sites overlooked the marchers, but did not dampen the celebratory mood. President Obama made, what some of the 100 members of Congress who made the trip to Selma called, one of the best speeches of his political career.

The president honored those who sacrificed their time, sweat, tears, and blood in Selma and stated that the work started 50 years ago has not been completed, citing attempts to undermine voting rights in several states and recent violent deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Ferguson protesters also reminded Selma marchers that their fight isn’t over.

Lyndon B. Johnson was honored at the Selma march for pushing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through Congress. His daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, accepted an award in her father’s name. Time quotes Luci Baines recalling the day President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

“He said, ‘Luci Baines, we are going to Congress today and there are going to be many brave and extraordinary men and women there. I was pinching myself. I was a child of the South, I’d grown up with separate water fountains … that was a way of life for my generation, it was a way of life that needed to be buried, and it was.'”

The march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge had been attempted twice before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. successfully led the Selma to Montgomery march that concluded on March 25, 1965.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]