Whether turning on the early morning network news to check the weather forecast, school closings, or in the car driving to work with our favorite morning radio programming, we are involuntarily dragged into the world of political advertisement and beaten over the head with the sledge-hammer of partisan politics during this election season.
The commercialization of the voting process and its reduction to extremism, in the form of sound bites and tweets focused on attacking one’s opponent or party, instead of the generation of meaningful dialogue to remedy the pervasive societal problems we face should be frankly insulting to an intelligent perspective.
This year my 18-year-old will cast his first vote. I want him and my daughter to “connect the dots,” between Selma To Montgomery so that they will treat their right to vote as the precious jewel that it is, untainted by this overwhelming commercialization.
So, we are going to have a Family Meeting-right here-right now. Here are some facts that I want my children and perhaps even you as a reader to know about those 3 marches:
1. There were in fact 3 marches. “Bloody Sunday” was the first and took place on March 7, 1965 (47 years ago today). Martin Luther King Jr. organized the second march that occurred on March 9, 1965. The third march started on March 16, 1965 and concluded on March 25, 1965 at the Alabama State Capitol.
2. In Dallas County, Alabama in 1961, there were 15,000 African-Americans old enough to vote and only 130 were registered. 80% of the African-American population lived below the poverty line.
3. When 32 African-American school teachers in Selma applied to register as voters, they were immediately fired by the Selma Board of Education’s all white school board.
4. July 9, 1964, Judge James Hare issued an injunction forbidding any gathering of 3 or more people under the sponsorship of a civil rights organization or its leaders. This injunction made it illegal to even talk to more than 2 people at a time about civil rights or voter registration in Selma, suppressing public civil rights activity.
5. The Selma Voting Rights Movement officially started on January 2, 1965, when Dr. King addressed a mass meeting in Brown Chapel in direct defiance of the anti-meeting injunction.
6. On March 7, 1965, “Bloody Sunday,” approximately 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on US Highway 80.When these marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a wall of Alabama State Police attacked the marchers with tear gas and billy clubs. Televised coverage of the brutal attack presented Americans with horrible images of bloodied and severely injured marchers.
7. Two days later on March 9, 1965, a second march was organized by Dr. King. After a short prayer meeting, 2,500 protesters were turned around at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to avoid further persecution for disobeying the injunction. Reverend James Reeb, a white Unitarian minister, died March 11, 1965 as a result of the beating he sustained with 2 of his white ministerial counterparts.
8. A week after Reverend Reeb’s death, one Judge Johnson ruled in favor of the protestors on First Amendment grounds which paved the way for an additional march. On March 21, 1965 close to 8,000 people assembled at Brown Chapel to commence the third march from Selma to Montgomery. The marchers averaged about 10 miles per day, protected by 2,000 U.S. soldiers, approximately 1,900 Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and numerous Federal Agents. They arrived in Montgomery on March 24, 1965 at the Alabama State Capital. This route is now memorialized as the Selma To Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, a U.S. National Historic Trail.
9. Later that night, Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of 5 from Detroit, who had come to Alabama to support voting rights for African-Americans, was murdered while ferrying marchers back to Selma from Montgomery.
10. In his speech to Congress urging the passing of what would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson said “Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”
As our Family Meeting concludes, I am so grateful to those marchers. I also hope and pray that my children have the pleasure of enjoying “the full blessings of American life,” a very important one of which my son will enjoy for the first time this year…..the right to vote!
I think that knowing this history will help him appreciate it that much more. I just hope he can reflect upon it, feel, and hear his appreciation, amidst all of the campaign noise and commercials.
Read, learn, and share…..Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller
2012 All Rights Reserved.
All facts utilized in this post were taken from Wikipedia.