Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first of three historic Selma, Alabama marches in 1965 as part of the voting rights movement for disenfranchised Blacks & the broader civil rights movement. Activists planned on walking the 54-mile highway to Montgomery, the Alabama state capital, but George Wallace, the rabid segregationist governor of Alabama denounced the march as a threat to public safety & said he would take all measures to stop it.
The first march which began March 7th is nicknamed “Bloody Sunday” after the 600 unarmed marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus bridge as they were leaving Selma. State troopers & a posse deputized that morning by the county sheriff (made up of all white males in the county, including members of the KKK) attacked the marchers with billy clubs, tear gas, & mounted police.
The second attempt, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., was on March 9th with about 2,500 people but because they were under a court order not to march, they stopped at the bridge leaving town where the first protest was assaulted & turned back.
The third attempt, also led by MLK, Jr., began in Selma on March 21st with 8,000 activists from around the country. A federal judge had ruled that the Bill of Rights could not be denied Blacks by the state of Alabama & protection along the route by federal & military troops was pledged by then president Lyndon Johnson. By the time the march arrived in Montgomery on March 25th, there were 25,000 protesters demanding Black voting rights.
Photo is Selma marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they were first attacked by state cops & the county posse. It’s the cover of Life Magazine which included a spread on the march.