When someone mentions spring break, we imagine beaches, parties and music. A week where we can step back from all the work and have fun again. Well if you were to ask someone from the African American community, in let’s say…southern Alabama during this same week in March. You would get the exact opposite response. Where the hardest work lays ahead. When there isn’t much to laugh at. And what your hearing isn’t music.
On Sunday, March 7, 1965, no more than 600 locals had planned to walk from their town Selma, to the state capitol of Alabama, Montgomery as a peaceful demonstration to demand fairness in voter registration. Little did they know that there would be dozens of armed state troopers to meet them at the edge of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The sheriff had warned them that they had two minutes to end their march, but no one intended on doing so. The marchers had been tear gassed, spat on, whipped, clubbed, mauled by police dogs, and trampled by horses. Word traveled fast, and this day became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
Selma became the focus of Martin Luther King Jr’s voter registration campaign. A town where African Americans made up almost half the population, but only two percent were registered voters.
Another march was to follow two days later but was once again turned away by the troopers. The following night, a white supporter was beaten to death, further demonstrating the importance of the segregation in the south. On March, 21, 1965, with a permit from a US district court judge’s approval, along with the televised support of Lyndon Baines Johnson, (psst! That was the president at the time) 2,000 some odd demonstrators set out from Selma to Montgomery. Walking from the 21st to the 25th, 12 hours a day, sleeping in fields on the way, the Alabama Freedom March to protest the denial of voting rights to blacks, along with the 50,000 supporters that met them in Montgomery, ended its journey from Selma on the steps of the State Capitol.
The following August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed all African Americans the right to vote. It amazes me that even 100 years after the Civil War had ended and the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, (This granted all slaves free, signed by President Abraham Lincoln) they were still discriminative barriers which prevented African American’s the right to vote.
If you were president, would you have done this sooner? Or better yet, would you have gotten involved and supported what you believed was right?