Child Watch® Column: "Staying on the March—Right Now"
Fifty years ago I traveled from Mississippi to Selma, Alabama on March 21st, 1965 to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of fellow citizens marching the 54 miles to the steps of the state’s capitol in Montgomery. Millions of Americans now know about this march thanks to the movie Selma and the recent 50th anniversary celebration. Selma was the site of a courageous voting rights campaign by Black citizens which was met by brutal Southern Jim Crow law enforcement and citizen violence. The nation was shocked two weeks earlier when John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams set out on a nonviolent march with a group of 600 people toward Montgomery to demand their right to vote and were brutally attacked by lawless state and local law enforcement officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The televised images of “Bloody Sunday” and the savage beatings of the marchers—including Congressman Lewis whose skull was fractured—were a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and in America’s struggle to become America. It provoked the thousands of us (ultimately about 25,000) who came together later to finish the march, safer thanks to Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.’s order that we had a right to peaceful protest and with National Guard protection. And we were buoyed by President Johnson’s March 15th, 1965 address calling on Congress to pass what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965.