18.03.07 Bloody Sunday

March 7, 2018
Quick Reads background image

OTD in 1965:

“Bloody Sunday”

On March 7, peaceful civil rights marchers were violently attacked by police as they began a 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama aimed at ending discriminatory laws & practices used against African Americans to prevent them from voting.


Why Did This Happen?

  • After slavery was abolished a century earlier, Congress passed the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race, color or prior servitude.
  • Yet, many states passed laws and employed practices to get around the 15th Amendment, like poll taxes, literacy exams, fraud, & intimidation.

“Bloody Sunday”

  • Nearly 600 nonviolent activists marched for six blocks before they were attacked by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
  • That night, the nation watched the horrific scene unfold on t.v.
  • Two days later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a “symbolic” march to the bridge.
  • Three weeks later, 3,000+ set out for Montgomery;A 25,000 arrived.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) shared his “Bloody Sunday” memories with TIME Magazine in 2017:

“They came toward us with nightsticks, beating us, pushing us, trampling us with horses, and releasing the tear gas. I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick. . . . “


Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) shared his “Bloody Sunday” memories with TIME Magazine in 2017:

“I suffered a concussion on the bridge, and I thought I was going to die that day. I saw death. Fifty years later, I still don’t remember how I made it through the streets of Selma back to Brown Chapel that evening.”

Watch Now

A week later, Pres. Lyndon Johnson told Congress:

“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. . . . What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. . . .A And we shall overcome.”

Watch Now

Five months later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act

In August 1965, Pres. Johnson signed the Act, which prohibited discrimination in voting & gave the federal gov’t a way to enforce the 15th Amendment against the states.

By 1969, the percent of voting-age African Americans registered to vote nearly tripled.

To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 2015, Pres. Barack Obama & former Pres. George W. Bush, joined former marchers, including Rep. Lewis, and other leaders to walk across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge.

by Jenna Lee,