Monday, January 19, 2009

Today, we remember. Tomorrow is a new day.

Today is always a trip down memory lane. Here are some photos from the 60s that I pulled out of news archives today. When I look at the photos, it is as real as it can be. Above, Birmingham fire hoses trying to drive off civil rights demonstrators in the early 60s -- but it could just as well be Jackson, Mississsippi with me and other SNCC members from the University of Iowa. Next to fire hoses, electric cattle prods were the other weapon of choice for the police. SNCC meant non-violence at all times so, when the police pushed us back, we sat down. Often when we sat down, this is what happened. The idea was to drive us out. Instead, it strengthened our resolve.

This is a tight shot of Dr. King giving the oft repeated "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, a few months later in the summer of 1963. The media had begun to follow the story, and the president and the government had begun to respond.
This photo was taken a week before Martin Luther King was assasinated in Memphis in 1968. Dr. King was marching on behalf of black sanitation workers. Sadly, this march erupted into a riot, the only apparent outlet for anger.

Here are the conditions under which the black sanitation workers demonstrated . Note both the armed soldiers and the tanks.
March 1965 -- The march from Selma to Montgomery, two years after the "March on Washington" and three years before Dr. King was killed. It took three tries to get the march done, as chronicled below. You can see how much has changed in this country since that time. Today, we remember not just Dr.King but all those who gave their lives for freedom
* * * * *
Sunday, March 7, 1965, "Bloody Sunday"
At 1:00 P.M. as 600 peaceful marchers approached the bottom of the
Edmund Pettus Bridge they were met by Alabama state troopers and local deputies. The marchers were preparing to march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama which is the state capital. They were marching the 54 miles in protest to the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson and unfair voter registration practices.
ordered to end the march by state troopers, the marchers were given three minutes, but within one and half minutes they were attacked by dogs, beaten with billy clubs, tear gas, and chased by posses. As the marchers were being attacked the ABC television network was there to film the march not knowing that it would become violent. The ABC television network immediately stopped the present show to introduce to the country the brutality that was taking place in Selma, Alabama. This day became known as "Bloody Sunday."
Turnaround Tuesday, March 9, 1965
After the (first) brutal attack on the Selma marchers, Dr. King sent a telegram around the country asking for ministers of all faiths to come to Selma, Alabama to march to Montgomery, Alabama. While waiting for the judge's decision to march, Dr. King received word that the judge had denied the march to take place on Tuesday, and it would be Thursday before a decision would be announced. With 1,500 people of all races waiting to march Dr. King made a decision to continue the march. As the marchers were singing "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round" when they reached the bottom of the Edmund Pettus Bridge once again they were met by the Alabama state troopers.

When the marchers were ordered to end the march, Dr. King and the marchers knelt down, prayed, and walked back to Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church. Dr. King made a decision to discontinue the march because he did not want violence to happen as it did on "Bloody Sunday." Because Dr. King and the marchers turned back and marched to the church this became known as "Turnaround Tuesday." Later that evening three white ministers were attacked and beaten with a iron pipe. Rev. James Reeb was badly injured and later died from a blow to the head. The death of Rev. Reeb gained national attention. President Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Bill.

Third MarchSunday, March 21, 1965
After the death of Rev. Reeb, Governor Wallace flew to Washington DC to meet with President Johnson. He claimed that the state of Alabama did not have enough manpower to protect the marchers along highway 80. President Johnson then ordered the Alabama National Guardsmen to protect the marchers from Selma to Montgomery. Later that day President Johnson made a speech to the nation about the "Bloody Sunday" event. Many Negroes felt that it took the death of a white minister for the President to become concerned about the movement and not the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. Finally, Judge Frank Johnson gave permission for the march to take place after viewing the "Bloody Sunday" news tape. He then ordered Governor Wallace not to interfere with the march. On Sunday, March 21, 1965, about 3,500 people with the nation watching left Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church marching and singing to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Among the marchers were
ministers of all faith and races, leaders from every major organization, and celebrities such as Ralph Bunche and Harry Belafonte. To protect the marchers about twelve planes and helicopters flew over the marchers. Once the marchers covered seven miles, as ordered by President Johnson only 300 were allowed to walk highway 80. The other 2,000 marchers were taken back to Selma by Alabama railways.

Montgomery AlabamaThursday, March 25, 1965
Around noon over
25,000 marchers had lined the streets of Montgomery in front of the capitol because they were not allowed on the steps of the capitol. Governor Wallace sent a message at about 2:00 PM to say that he would meet with a delegation, but they must be Alabamaians. Dr. King delivered one of his most powerful speeches about the injustices done to the Negro people in Alabama. Listen to a portion of the speech.
After this great speech a group of 18 Negroes and 2 whites attempted to give a petition to Governor Wallace, but his executive secretary tried to accept the petition, so Rev. Joseph Lowery refused to place it in his hands.
Around 6:00 PM the marchers were transported back to Selma by buses, trains, and cars. They were advised to leave the city of Montgomery before dark. Sadly, on that evening a white woman by the name of
Viola Liuzzo was driving from Montgomery heading back toward Selma and was killed by klansmen.

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