On this day in history, state troopers joined by a sheriff’s posse attacked 525 demonstrators taking part in a march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. The march was in protest over the killing in the previous month of a young black man during a voter registration march in a nearby city.
As the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were ordered by the police to disperse. When they stopped to pray, the troopers charged at them, discharging tear gas and beating the demonstrators with night sticks.
One of those beaten was one of the leaders of the march, John Lewis, whose skull was broken. Before he could be taken to the hospital, Lewis appeared before the television cameras calling on President Johnson to intervene in Alabama.
On March 15, eight days after watching the violence, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented a bill to Congress that would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It outlawed discriminatory voting laws that had kept black people off the voting rolls and provided for federal examiners to oversee voter registration in areas where voting rights were endangered.
Today, John Lewis is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Georgia), and still bears visible scars from that attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.