Selma to Montgomery March

For my research blog, I had to research the Selma to Montgomery March. This was one of the many protest in the fight for Civil Rights. The key issue for this protest was to fight for equal voting rights for all Americans and to finally get rid of voting restrictions. This march went down in history being called “Bloody Sunday” and it took place on March 7, 1965. This was a peaceful protest, but it soon turned violent. This along with other protest helped show other people what was going on throughout the "South". Several protesters were injured including House of Representative John Lewis. These people still bear the scars of that fatal day. The group felt that they need Dr. King and others to lead them in their quest for equal rights.

I consider this march the sequel to the March on Washington that took place in 1963, which focused on equal pay, equal rights, and equality for all including women who were also being discriminated against. From this march, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, but there was still restrictions against African Americans. The 15th Amendment which gave African Americans the right to vote after the Civil War and the end of slavery. Once reconstruction came to an end, political leaders throughout the south wanted payback for losing the war and they were not willing give former slaves an rights so they came up with Jim Crow type of laws to restrict them from getting their civil rights and voting rights. 

This fight was led by students such as John Lewis and other prominent leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. John Lewis was one of the main leaders who was there for “Bloody Sunday” and he was attacked by the law enforcement of Selma and state police. They were told to turn around and go back to where ever they came from, but as they were trying to leave, they were attacked. This upset me because police are meant to serve and protect, not batter and injure people who are peacefully marching for their rights.

We spoke with Ms. Joanne Bland who was eleven years old when they first decided to form a group and march from Selma to Montgomery to the capitol. She reflected about how she was excited to march and she was happy to be participating. She also reflected on how she wanted to sit at the lunch counters but she was told that she could because of the color of her skin. She described that Bloody day and said that she did not want to participate ever again because of all of the violence that she witnessed. She said she could not really remember everything because she was also hit. She said she remember sitting in a car afterwards and seeing her sister crying and having blood drip from her head because she was assaulted. She also shared with us the different churches in Selma that helped coordinate the protest.

On March 17, 1965, even as the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers fought for the right to carry out their protest, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, calling for federal voting rights legislation to protect African Americans from barriers that prevented them from voting. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote (first awarded by the 15th Amendment) to all African Americans. Specifically, the act banned literacy tests as a requirement for voting, mandated federal oversight of voter registration in areas where tests had previously been used, and gave the U.S. attorney general the duty of challenging the use of poll taxes for state and local elections. Along with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act was one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history. Its effects greatly reduced the disparity between black and white voters in the U.S. and allowed a greater number of African Americans to enter political life at the local, state and national level.

In the end, John Lewis, Dr. King, and other protesters went and got paperwork saying that they could march. The irony of the whole thing is that those lawmen who attacked them before were the ones who were forced to protect them and get them to all of their destination. I am left with the question of why do people in my generation choose not to vote? I am very encouraged to vote and would try my hardest to get other people within my generation involved.

Faith O'Connor

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