Members of the Greater St. Paul AME Church on North Houston Street in Scottsboro will travel to Selma, Alabama, on Saturday, March 7, 2015, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the name given to the violent clash between protestors and police that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“President Obama is going to be in Selma this weekend and we hope to get to see him,” said Carolyn Jones, a member at the church.
The public is invited to go along on the one-day trip that will include viewing a parade and a visit to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the president will deliver a speech.
On March 7, 1965, protesters planned to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on their civil rights march to Montgomery. Law enforcement officers attempted to break up the protest, ultimately using force against the crowd. The resulting violence of “Bloody Sunday” became a rallying point for civil rights leaders.
According to Wikipedia, “The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement and led to the passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression.
A voters registration campaign in Selma had been launched in 1963 by local African Americans, who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). Joined by organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), they began working that year in a renewed effort to register black voters. Most of the millions of African Americans across the South had effectively been disenfranchised since the turn of the century by a series of discriminatory requirements and practices. Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965. Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 persons arrested by the end of February.
On February 26, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being mortally shot several days earlier by a state trooper during a peaceful march in Marion, Alabama. The community was sorrowed and outraged. To defuse and refocus the anger, SCLC Director of Direct Action James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma Voting Rights Movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. Bevel had been working on his Alabama Project for voting rights since late 1963.
The first march took place on March 7, 1965. Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others helped organize it. The march gained the nickname "Bloody Sunday" after its 600 marchers were attacked at the Edmund Pettus Bridge after leaving Selma; state troopers and county posse attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Boynton was one of those beaten unconscious; a picture of her lying wounded on the bridge was published and televised around the world.
The second march took place March 9; troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other, but when the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, King led the marchers back to the church. He was seeking protection by a federal court for the march. That night, a white group beat and murdered civil rights activist James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, who had come to Selma to march in the second march, which had been joined by many other clergy and sympathizers from across the country.
The violence of "Bloody Sunday" and of Reeb's death led to a national outcry and some acts of civil disobedience, targeting both the Alabama state and federal governments. The protesters demanded protection for the Selma marchers and a new federal voting rights law to enable African Americans to register and vote without harassment. President Lyndon Johnson, whose administration had been working on a voting rights law, held a televised joint session of Congress on March 15 to ask for the bill's introduction and passage.
With Governor Wallace refusing to protect the marchers, President Johnson committed to do so. 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. With thousands having joined the campaign, 25,000 people entered the capital city that day in support of voting rights.
The route is memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, and is a U.S. National Historic Trail.”
The President’s remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge are open to the general public. Although a ticket is not required to hear the president’s remarks, access to the event will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
“This is an important historical trip for our youth,” Jones said, “and we have gotten sponsors from the community who have helped make it possible. Anyone who would like to come along is welcome.”
Departure times and trip itinerary are available by calling the Greater St. Paul AME Church at: 256-574-4226.