Every year, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) remembers the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March and continues the national conversation around voting rights. Each March, we pay homage to the 600 unarmed men, women and children who were on the front lines in the fight for voting rights on March 7, 1965 or “Bloody Sunday.” Early in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference made Selma, Alabama, the focus of its efforts to register Black voters in Alabama. On March 7, protestors attempting to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge on their way from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were assaulted by Alabama State Troopers wielding whips, nightsticks, and tear gas.
LDF played a pivotal role in ensuring the marchers were able to proceed to Montgomery as planned. LDF and cooperating attorneys Fred Gray, Solomon Seay, Jr., Oscar Adams, Jr., and Demetrius Newton filed a lawsuit against then Alabama Governor George Wallace in a case known as Williams v. Wallace. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered federal protection for a later march attempt. LDF lawyers Jack Greenberg, Norman Amaker, Charles H. Jones, and James Nabrit were subsequently involved in drawing up a safe and secure route from Selma to Montgomery.
In honor of their bravery and mission, LDF participates in a series of events during the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee, now held each year in early March in locations throughout Selma, Alabama.
The monumental civil rights protest in Selma, and LDF’s role in ensuring it was successful, cast much-needed media attention on the outright denial of the right to vote to African-Americans and hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As we continue to underscore the importance of this anniversary, now is also a time to recognize the struggles we currently face in the voting rights arena. The current political climate threatens the freedoms we have won over the last half-century, as well as our country’s opportunity for future progress. As we pay tribute to the courageous marchers back in 1965, we recommit ourselves to stamping out voter suppression and ensuring that no one else is excluded from the democratic process.
Follow LDF on Facebook and Twitter for scenes from Selma anniversary events and visit our case pages for more information on our ongoing challenges against voter suppression.
The weekend of activities commemorating the anniversary of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge kicked off with LDF Lawyers fanning out across Selma to share information about LDF and invite community members to our panel.
Every year we convene a community voting rights panel at Brown's Chapel A.M.E. church on Saturday afternoon. The Saturday panel gives us an opportunity to talk about voter suppression with people who come from around the country to attend the march. The panel included one of our clients from Waller County, Texas where we filed suit on behalf of students at Prairie View A&M students in the weeks before the election, demanding equal access to early voting opportunities. We also were joined on our panel by Van Newkirk, the writer for THE ATLANTIC who covers voting rights, and Wanda Mosely, a member of Black Votes Matter in Georgia. Todd Cox moderated the panel and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) provided opening remarks.
After our panel on voting rights attendees and LDF lawyers mingled and discussed the state of voting rights, and Selma's critical role in establishing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill catches up with former LDF Deputy Director of Litigation Ryan P. Haygood at our voting rights panel reception.
LDF lawyers and staff attend Sunday services at Brown's Chapel A.M.E. church before the march.
President- Director Council Sherrlyn Iffil hands out assignments to attendees, calling on the crowd to pay attention to #HR4 voting rights; use LDF as a resource to get informed; pay attention to judicial nominations and vote in every election.
Even in rain, we marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the right to vote.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative.