To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Selma, about 70,000 people marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on Saturday, March 7, 2015.
The march covered 54 miles and each day that week, marchers walked about 11 miles until they reached Alabama’s capital where they had planned on participating in rallies for voting rights.
Before the march began, President Barack Obama delivered a speech for the thousands in the crowd. Many believed it was one of the best speeches he has ever given.
“In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher – met on this bridge. It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the meaning of America,” Obama said.
Obama, although praising the progress America has made over the 50 years, explained that there was still improvement needed.
“Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the ‘race card’ for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us,” Obama said.
After delivering his speech, Obama led the thousands of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the same one that protesters walked on 50 years ago. He walked hand-in-hand with John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson, 103. Robinson was one of the people who organized the protest 50 years ago, and was beaten and left unconscious while protesting.
“Being able to see that woman who risked her life by peacefully protesting for what she believed in holding hands with our African-American president makes me happy to see. Our country has came a long way,” said sophomore Caitlyn Angley.
Fifty years ago, African-Americans wanted to get the Voting Rights Act passed, an act the prohibited racial discrimination in voting. The killing of activist Jimmie Lee Jackson during a peaceful march triggered the march to Montgomery.
During the first march, protesters marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they met state troopers who ordered them to turn around. After the activists refused, the state troopers beat them with clubs and released tear gas. This event is also often called “Bloody Sunday.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead the second march a few days later. Before police confronted them, King actually turned the protesters around because he was obeying the federal district court judge’s request to hold off the protest until a later date.
On the third and final march, President Lyndon B. Johnson had members of the U.S. Army and Alabama National Guard protect the marchers. They made it to Montgomery a few days later, and on August 6 of that same year, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Fifty years later, thousands of people showed up to honor those who paved the way.
“What they did showed a lot of bravery. Even after they were brutally attacked by state troopers, they still continued to protest peacefully,” said sophomore Megan Sgroi.
Due to this historic event, thousands of people showed up to honor those who fought 50 years ago. Though many went home on Saturday about 60 people returned on Monday to re-enact the march to Montgomery.
Special events have been planned all the way to August 6 in both Selma and Montgomery.
What are your thoughts on the march that commemorated the 50th anniversary of Selma?