There have been thousands of days throughout history that standout as monumental events for America. The U.S. declaring war on the Empire of Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Woodstock Festival and Vietnam War protests, and the Space race against the Soviet Union all are some of the most life-altering moments throughout history, but none, one could argue, represent more of a change than the Selma-to-Montgomery march in the spring of 1956.
For 18 days, from March 7th to the 25th, the entire world looked at Selma, Alabama as the focus point for the battle for civil rights in the effort to register black voters in the South. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were at the helm of this historic moment.
The MLK speech was in 1963 and gave King a massive following. So, with King at the helm, 2,000 people marched 54 miles to Montgomery, Alabama in hopes of changing the world.
During their first ascent, the thousands of nonviolent marchers were met by Alabama state troopers and area possemen and were attacked with billy clubs, tear gas, and other weapons as the marchers attempted to pass over the county line. The entire world watched as law enforcement officers beat nonviolent protesters, young men and women alike, unconscious.
The tragic beating would later be known as Bloody Sunday.
After a federal injunction that required the troopers, police, and possemen to allow the marchers to pass, with King at the front, a white group of murderers beat and killed James Reeb, a civil rights activist and minister from Boston.
After the bloody televised beatings and unjust killing of Reeb, the general public began to shift from silently watching the events unfold to national outcry. Protesters began demanding protection for the Selma marchers and for a new federal voting rights law to be implemented, which would allow African Americans to both register to vote and vote without any harassment or intimidation.
Despite Alabama Governor, and segregationist, George Wallace’s refusal to protect MLK and the marchers, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered thousands of members of the Alabama National Guard, Federal Marshals, and FBI to protect the marchers. And by the end of the historic march, after adding on nearly 25,000 additional people who joined in support of voting rights, the marchers successfully arrived in Montgomery on March 25.
Thanks to this historic march, the famous MLK speech that took place two years prior, and countless other moments throughout the fight for civil rights, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted on August 6. The landmark piece of federal legislation prohibits racial discrimination in voting.
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