Last weekend, American commemorated the anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ and the Selma to Montgomery March. Activities included a pageant, a dance, women and youth conferences, a parade, festival, interfaith service and National Voting Rights Hall of Fame induction.
The annual event in Selma, Alabama, commemorates ‘Bloody Sunday,’ which occurred March 7, 1965, when a group of about 525 African American demonstrators gathered at Browns Chapel to demand the right to vote. They walked six blocks to Broad Street, then across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by more than 50 state troopers and a few dozen posse men on horseback. When the demonstrators refused to turn back, they were brutally beaten. At least 17 were hospitalized, and 40 others received treatment for injuries and the effects of tear gas.
The attack, which was broadcast on national television, caught the attention of millions of Americans and became a symbol of the brutal racism of the South. Two weeks later, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 3,200 civil rights protesters marched the 49 miles from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery—an event that prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.
Every year on the first weekend in March, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee commemorates both the bloody confrontation at the Pettus Bridge and the march from Selma to Montgomery that followed.
Events include a parade, a Miss Jubilee Pageant, a mock trial, and a commemorative march to the bridge. Every five years, celebrants continue all the way to Montgomery.
In attendance at the event were many Democratic 2020 hopefuls including Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We don’t honor our history by talking about it,” said Booker. “We honor our history by letting it inform us of the work we have to do.”
Sanders and Clinton discussed voter suppression.
“How sad it is that 54 years later, we are still fighting for the right to vote,” Sanders said, while calling on Congress to make it easier to vote.
“It’s our turn to demand that we end all voter suppression in this country.”
“We see all of the suppressive efforts at the point of registration and even the point of voting,” said Clinton. “We see the malfunctioning equipment. We see the longer lines. We see how all of this is designed to discourage, to suppress, to prevent people from voting, particularly communities of color.”