What You Need to Know:
March 7 marks the 57th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” commemorating the deadly 1965 march. On that Sunday, over 500 civil rights marchers began their trek in Selma, Alabama, demanding voting rights for Black people. Upon reaching the Edmund Pettus Bridge, marchers were met by billy club-wielding Alabama state troopers, beating back nonviolent marchers.
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic, and the deaths of several civil rights icons, official in-person events returned in and around the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights leaders, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Rev. C.T. Vivian, passed away in 2020.
The 57th anniversary of the civil rights landmark follows the disappointing defeat last month of voting rights legislation in the U.S. Senate. In his statement, President Biden promised to pass a voting bill.
“In Selma, the blood of John Lewis and so many other courageous Americans sanctified a noble struggle. We are determined to honor that legacy by passing legislation to protect the right to vote and uphold the integrity of our elections, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.”
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to the crowd about the tenacity and spirit of John Lewis:
“It is that clarity of purpose, that relentless dedication, That spirit, the spirit of Selma that we summon today. We will keep fighting. We will keep organizing, We will keep shouting, We will keep making good trouble, and we will march on until victory is won.”
Biden officials attending the event included Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardinal, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
The events of Bloody Sunday put into motion the March from Selma, Alabama to the state Capitol, Montgomery, and later pushed the United States federal government to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
The reenactment of the bridge crossing events began with a service at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, a historic civil rights meeting place, followed by a rally and then a blocks-long march to Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Alabama state troopers began their violent attack on the marchers. Edmund Pettus was the Confederate Army officer and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.