March 7, 1965 – State Troopers Attack Civil Rights Demonstrators in Selma, Alabama

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.

Alabama state troopers attacking the demonstrators on March 7, 1965

Alabama state troopers attacking the demonstrators on March 7, 1965

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.

John Lewis in 1964

John Lewis in 1964

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.

President Obama and Representative John Lewis led thousands in a commemorative march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, 2015.  NYT

President Obama and Representative John Lewis led thousands in a commemorative march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, 2015. NYT

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: