First March from Selma
When You Pray, Move Your Feet.
— African Proverb.
Charles White(?), photographer, Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965.
photo courtesy of Representative John Lewis
John Lewis (on right in trench coat) and Hosea Williams (on the left) lead marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by an state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.
One hundred years after the Civil War, in many parts of the nation, the 15th Amendment had been nullified by discriminatory laws, ordinances, intimidation, violence, and fear which kept a majority of African Americans from the polls. The situation was particularly egregious in the city of Selma, in Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up more than half the population yet comprised only about 2 percent of the registered voters. As far back as 1896, when the U.S. House of Representatives adjudicated the contested results of a congressional election held in Dallas County, it was stated on the floor of Congress:
…I need only appeal to the memory of members who have served in this House for years and who have witnessed the contests that time and time again have come up from the black belt of Alabama—since 1880 there has not been an honest election in the county of Dallas…
Hon. W. H. Moody, of Massachusetts
Contested Election Case, Aldrich vs. Robbins, Fourth District, Alabama: Speeches of Hon. W.H. Moody, of Massachusetts [et al.] in the House of Representatives, 3 (2239),
March 12 and 13, 1896.
From Slavery to Freedom, 1824-1909
However, by March 1965, the Dallas County Voters League, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were all working for voting rights in Alabama. John Lewis headed SNCC’s voter registration effort and, on March 7, he and fellow activist Hosea Williams led the group of silent marchers from the Brown Chapel AME Church to the foot of the Pettus bridge and into the event soon known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Alabama Police Attack Selma-to-Montgomery Marchers,
Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965. — http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/civilrights/al4.htm
“We Shall Overcome”: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement — http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/index.htm
When ABC television interrupted a Nazi war crimes documentary, Judgement in Nuremberg, to show footage of violence in Selma a powerful metaphor was presented to the nation. Within forty-eight hours, demonstrations in support of the marchers were held in eighty cities and thousands of religious and lay leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, flew to Selma. On March 9, Dr. King led a group again to the Pettus Bridge where they knelt, prayed, and, to the consternation of some, returned to Brown Chapel. That night a Northern minister, who was in Selma to march, was killed by white vigilantes.
Outraged citizens continued to inundate the White House and the Congress with letters and phone calls. On March 9, for example, Jackie Robinson, the baseball hero, sent a telegram to the President:
“IMPORTANT YOU TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION IN ALABAMA ONE MORE DAY OF SAVAGE TREATMENT BY LEGALIZED HATCHET MEN COULD LEAD TO OPEN WARFARE BY AROUSED NEGROES AMERICA CANNOT AFFORD THIS IN 1965”
In Montgomery, Federal Judge Frank Johnson, Jr. temporarily restrained all parties in order to review the case. And, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the American people before a televised Joint Session of Congress, saying, “There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights…We have already waited a hundred years and more, and the time for waiting is gone…”
Rev. Ralph Abernathy walking with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as They Lead Civil Rights Marchers out of Camp to Resume Their March
United Press International — http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/94505571/
Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, March 21-25, 1965.
Prints & Photographs Division — http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/
Allowing CBS footage of “Bloody Sunday” as evidence in court, Judge Johnson ruled on March 17, that the demonstrators be permitted to march. Under protection of a federalized National Guard, voting rights advocates left Selma on March 21 and stood 25,000 strong on March 25 before the state capitol in Montgomery. As a direct consequence of these events, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing every American twenty-one and over the right to register to vote. During the next four years the number of U.S. blacks eligible to vote rose from 23 to 61 percent.
John Lewis went on to serve as Director of the Voter Education Project, a program that eventually added nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls. To mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” on March 7, 2000, Lewis, a U.S. Congressman from Atlanta’s 5th District, and Hosea Williams crossed the Pettus Bridge accompanied by President William Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and others. Asked to contrast this experience with that of 1965 the Congressman responded, “This time when I looked there were women’s faces and there were black faces among the troopers. And this time when we faced them, they saluted.”
•American Treasures is an exhibition of special items in the Library of Congress collections. The exhibition is divided into four sections: Top Treasures, Memory, Imagination, and Reason. The latter includes images taken about 1963 by Danny Lyon, staff photographer for SNCC, a key organizing body during the Civil Rights Movement.
•Search on the term Selma, Alabama in the black and white photos of the Farm Services Administration collection, FSA/OWI Photographs, 1935-1945 to see images of the city taken during the 1930s by the photographer Walker Evans. Search on Alabama to see images taken by the FSA photographers Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott, and Carl Mydans.
•The Great Migration made northerners more aware of disenfranchisement in the Deep South and newspapers like The Gazette and The Advocate fostered awareness within the black community. Search on the term vote in African-American Experience in Ohio, 1850-1920 to view about 100 items that address the issue. See, for example, the 1887 article “Negro Voting Power” and the 1888 article “First Colored Voter.” The poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar mentions Alabama disenfranchisement in his article “Paul Dunbar’s Protest.”
•Music drawn from a tradition of Southern spirituals helped sustain the Civil Rights Movement. Search on the term spiritual in the John Lomax and Ruby Terrel Lomax collection Southern Mosaic to hear some of the tunes which comprise that tradition. Listen, for example, to versions of “This Little Light of Mine,” “Long Way to Travel,” and “Great Day” as they were rendered in the South back in 1939.
•Images of 20th Century African American Activists: A Select List presents frequently requested images from the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library. Except where otherwise noted in the “Reproduction Number” line, images are considered to be in the public domain. The selection includes images of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and Ralph Abernathy.
•Search the Today in History Archive on the term states rights to learn more about an issue which lay at the heart of the American system. Ironically, on March 7, 1850, (exactly 115 years before “Bloody Sunday”) Daniel Webster gave his famous “Seventh of March speech” in favor of the Compromise of 1850, which, while it postponed the Civil War, strengthened states’ rights at the cost of African-American freedom. Search on the term Alabama to learn more about events in the state, such as the arrest of Rosa Parks.
•With the exception of Concord Bridge, where the American Revolution began, no bridge in America marks an event as historically momentous as that marked by the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Nevertheless, search across the Photos and Prints section of American Memory on the term bridge to see a wide array of other bridges. See, for example, Burnside’s Bridge (fought over during the Battle of Antietam), a Covered Bridge in Vermont, and the Locust St. Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. Also search the Today in History Archive on the term bridge to read features on the Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, and Golden Gate Bridge.
I wish to speak today; not as a Mass[achusetts] man – nor a Northern man – but as an American, & a member of the Senate of the U[nited] S[tate]s.
Daniel Webster’s notes for his speech to the United States Senate favoring the Compromise of 1850, March 7, 1850.
Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division’s First 100 Years
produced by Mathew Brady’s studio, circa 1851-1860.
America’s First Look into the Camera: Daguerrotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1864
The acquisition of territory following the U.S. victory in the Mexican War revived concerns about the balance of free and slave states in the Union. On March 7, 1850, Senator Daniel Webster delivered his famous “Seventh of March” speech urging sectional compromise on the issue of slavery. Advising abolition-minded Northerners to forgo antislavery measures, he simultaneously cautioned Southerners that disunion inevitably would lead to war.
Following the lead of senators Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, Webster endorsed Clay’s plan to assure sectional equilibrium in Congress. Passed after eight months of congressional wrangling, the legislation admitted California to the Union as a free state, permitted the question of slavery in Utah and New Mexico territories to be decided by popular sovereignty, settled Texas border disputes, and abolished slave trading in the District of Columbia while strengthening the Fugitive Slave Act.
The legislative package known as the Compromise of 1850 postponed the Civil War by a decade. However, like the 1820 Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 failed to resolve the question of slavery in a meaningful way. Over the course of the 1850s, the inadequacies of both measures were made painfully clear. “Popular sovereignty” undermined the Missouri compromise by suggesting the earlier division of the country along the thirty-sixth parallel into free states and slave states no longer applied. Indeed, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 permitted slavery. The resulting bloodshed in Kansas, like later incidents at Harper’s Ferry, presaged the violent conflict of the Civil War.
produced by Mathew Brady’s studio, circa 1850-1852.
America’s First Look into the Camera: Daguerrotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1864
Incidents of the War. A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, July 1863.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan, photographer.
•Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division’s First 100 Years , an online display of approximately ninety representative documents preserved by the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress, includes features on John C. Calhoun’s speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of 1850 and Henry Clay’s appointment as secretary of state on March 7, 1825.
•Read the Documentary History of Slavery in the United States by John Larkin Dorsey. A contemporary of Webster and Clay, Dorsey reviews slavery in the U.S. from 1774 and the Continental Congress to 1850 with special attention to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the probable dissolution of the Union. Search African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907 on slavery to access this document and many more.
•For more information about the movement to abolish slavery, visit the Abolition section of African American Odyssey, and the Abolition section of The African-American Mosaic as well. Also, read the Today in History features on Abolition in the District of Columbia , and on the abolitionists Lucretia Coffin Mott, and Elijah Parish Lovejoy.
•Browse The Frederick Douglass Papers. Many remarkable items are included in the papers of this nineteenth-century African-American abolitionist who escaped from slavery and then risked his own freedom by becoming an outspoken antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. The papers are divided into a series of nine sets. Set nine, for example, contains a booklet entitled Two Speeches by Frederick Douglass (on West Indian Emancipation and the Dred Scott Decision).
•A search on Daniel Webster in American Memory collections yields more than 2,000 items—including correspondence, speeches, images of statues, and even sheet music.
* Developed by the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, The Federal Highway Administration, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.
Black History Month
| The Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama
Photograph courtesy of the Alabama Historical Commission
Alabama Police confront the Selma Marchers
Federal Bureau of Investigation Photograph
The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks–and three events–that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80. They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a “symbolic” march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. “The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…,” said Judge Johnson, “and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.” On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965–the best possible redress of grievances.
The Selma-to-Montgomery March, National Historic Trail & All-American Road is one of the subjects of an online lesson plan, The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March: Shaking the Conscience of the Nation, produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on places listed in the National Register of Historic Places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.
|In 1996 the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail was created by Congress under the National Trails System Act of 1968. Like other “historic” trails covered in the legislation, the Alabama trail is an original route of national significance in American history. An inter-agency panel of experts recommended, and the Secretary of Transportation designated the trail an “All-American Road”–a road that has national significance, cannot be replicated, and is a destination unto itself. This designation is the highest tribute a road can receive under the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program, created by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.|
| By CAP Action War Room repost
Republicans Are Hearing How The Affordable Care Act Benefits People
As momentum continues to build up to the March 31 open enrollment deadline, Republican lawmakers continue to make every effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The House GOP keeps saying they are going to present an alternative, but all they can agree on is repealing the law–which they have now voted to do over 50 times.
Here’s one of the many flaws with that strategy: the law is working. And what’s more, Republican elected officials and candidates for public office are hearing about it from their constituents. Here are a few recent examples:
- Constituent Tells Rep. Paul Ryan About A Friend With Leukemia Whose Out-Of-Pocket Expenses Were Cut In Half. 64-year-old Michael Martincic criticized Ryan’s opposition to the law, telling the story of his friend with Leukemia who will save money thanks to the ACA and his own positive experience checking coverage options on the website. “It was so easy to get on the site; the whole thing took 15 minutes,” Martincic said. Michael and his wife are currently insured through his union, but they are thinking that they might switch to coverage under the ACA after he found out that they could save $500 a month through the exchange.
- New Hampshire GOP State Rep. To Former Sen. Scott Brown: ACA Was A “Financial Lifesaver.” Scott Brown is now taking his anti-Obamacare campaign plan from 2010 in Massachusetts up to the Granite State, but times are different now that the law is in effect. Brown was in the middle of calling the ACA a “monstrosity” at the home of State Rep. Herb Richardson, when his host chimed in to say that it in fact had been a “financial lifesaver” for his family. Previously, Richardson had been injured on the job and forced to live off worker’s comp, paying $1,100 for health care through the federal COBRA law and no longer able to afford his home. Now he and his wife are covered for just $136 per month. “Thank God for Obamacare!” his wife said.
- Health Advocate To Gov. Chris Christie: There Are “Almost 400,000…Who Qualify For Subsidies. We Need To Help Them Connect.” There are a huge number of people who are not aware that financial assistance is available through the ACA. At a town hall meeting Tuesday, health policy advocate Maura Collinsgru called out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for failing to help the hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans eligible for subsidies to connect to the insurance exchange. According to the Star-Ledger, “Collisgru said insurers, hospital systems, advocates and even Christie’s own Medicaid director all agree they must connect people to coverage.” “We’re asking you to join that,” Collinsgru said.
BOTTOM LINE: People are standing up and telling Republican lawmakers their stories about how the Affordable Care Act is working. The question is will they listen or just keep on pursuing their repeal-at-all-costs agenda?
State Laws And Election Administration Errors Causing Problems On Election Day
***The polls are set to close in a few hours. If you have yet to vote, what are you waiting for? Vote! Click here to get all the information you need when you go to the polls. A number of state laws have changed and may have altered the required documents you need to cast a ballot.***
Throughout the course of Election Day, ThinkProgress has been reporting on the ground from seven states across the country. They have gone beyond the horserace to uncover how the election process is going for voters. And they are finding numerous problems, whether the result of new state voter suppression laws, election administration issues, or something else. Here are a few (and check out the liveblog for more):
- North Carolina’s New Election Restrictions Are Turning Away Voters: At two polling places south of the city center, voters are turning up in steady numbers throughout the morning. But many of them aren’t casting ballots: they are being turned away because they aren’t at their correct precinct.
- Georgia Voter Redirected To Polling Place 35 Miles Away: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office failed to process tens of thousands of voter registration cards — mostly in heavily African-American counties — before the election, and it’s causing confusion at the polls. Karl Ragland and his wife moved to Atlanta from Covington, Ga., earlier in the year and submitted a change of address form to the Board of Elections. But when they showed up at their new polling place in Atlanta, they learned that the form had never been processed. Karl now has to drive 35 miles to Covington to vote, causing him to miss up to two hours of work. “I am going to vote today,” Karl said.
- Texas Voting Restrictions Sow Confusion At The Polls: At a polling site in Third Ward, a historically African American neighborhood in Houston, two voters have been turned away for lacking a photo ID. One had simply left it at home, and would have to make an additional trip to the polls. The other had to cast a provisional ballot, which has a much lower chance of being counted.
- More Than 21,000 Kansans Could Be Blocked From Voting On Election Day: Tens of thousands of Kansans who registered to vote may find themselves ineligible on Tuesday as a result of a new law that “requires people registering to vote for the first time to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport,” the Wichita Eagle reported on Friday. As of Oct. 31, 21,473 registered voters had not sent in documentation showing that they are American citizens.
- Atlanta Voters Are Being Required To Pay To Park: In one of Atlanta’s largest voting precincts, voters are complaining about being required to pay as they leave the parking lot next to Georgia Tech’s student center polling site, even though signs advertised free parking on Election Day. Advocates say that requiring people to pay extra fees during the process of voting essentially amounts to a poll tax.
- Miami Man Waited More Than 4 Hours To Vote After Poll Workers Refused To Allow Address Change: Florida law allows voters to change their address at the polls on Election Day. But because poll workers have not been adequately trained on Florida’s Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID), some voters who have recently moved are having problems casting ballots in their new precincts. Opa-Locka resident Eugene Gonzalez arrived at his polling location at 8:30 this morning, but did not cast his ballot until 1 pm because poll workers mistakenly told him that he needed to vote in Broward County, where he lived previously and was still registered.
- Alabama Voters With Public Housing, Shelter IDs Are Being Turned Away: At least three Alabama citizens apparently have been denied their right to vote thanks to the state’s voter ID law, a last-minute decision by the state that public housing and shelter ID’s are not valid proof of identity.
- Longtime Voter Removed From Voter Rolls In Ohio: Jamil Smith, a producer for MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show, reported on Twitter this morning that his father encountered a serious problem attempting to vote: “My father, who has voted in every election as long as he can remember, tells me his name wasn’t on the rolls this morning. He lives in Ohio.” It’s unclear how Smith’s father’s name was removed from the voter rolls, but Ohio was one of several states that signed onto a voter purge scheme devised by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) that developed a lost of voters under consideration for purging by simply finding people who share the same first and last name as a voter in another state.
BOTTOM LINE: These problems at the polls are just a few extremely concerning examples that should be immediately corrected — and could be illegal or unconstitutional. In response to this and other anecdotal evidence of barriers to voting, the Center for American Progress has issued letters to Secretaries of State in Kansas, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, urging them to take “immediate action” to rectify these concerns. Voting is a fundamental deomcratic right, and it should be free, fair, and accessible to all citizens.