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Photo depicting a Selma-to-Montgomery March memorial.
Photo depicting a Selma-to-Montgomery March memorial. "Selma Trip03" by ktpupp is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Remembering the Selma Voting Rights Movement

Ananda Chatterjee
Ananda Chatterjee #mlk

Fifty-five years ago, the raging fire of the African American Civil Rights movement found itself among the black residents of  Selma, Alabama.

Six hundred people attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery to demand equal voting rights and protest the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a peaceful black demonstrator shot  by an Alabama State trooper. The marchers led by U.S. Representative John Lewis and Hosea Williams attempted to get past the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by a wall of Alabama State troopers. The peaceful protestors were brutally tear gassed and charged with Billie Clubs and Nightsticks. 67 people were injured critically, and the eyes of the world were on Selma, Alabama. The event that is today remembered as Bloody Sunday was one of the most disgraceful moments in our history, a day in which American values were questioned by the forces of hate, and ignorance.  This historic event occurred only 235 miles from Tallahassee, Florida.

I had the privilege of interviewing several participants in the Selma Voting Rights movement, in a recent trip to Selma.  Ms. Jo Ann Bland, a participant in several of the Selma-Montgomery marches, speaking about Bloody Sunday, stated, “I hope no one ever has to relive that moment.”  Ms. Diane Harris, another demonstrator during the event,  added how state troopers arrested people regardless of their age, and noted children as young as nine also found themselves being taken to prison.

The efforts of the demonstrators  were not in vain. Their work saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,  a landmark piece of legislation that ensured voting rights to all people regardless of the color of their skin. Today, as the voting season comes upon us, it is important for us to remember the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the creation of legislation to protect the rights of all voters.  By voting, not only can we do our civic responsibility as citizens of the United States of America, we can honor the efforts of the activists, demonstrators, and leaders that helped make America a better place.