Today, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and vision for a healthy, inclusive democracy by launching a 35-day website countdown to the 50th anniversary commemoration of “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma-to-Montgomery March. The countdown begins on January 19th.
On Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams led almost 600 unarmed men, women and children in a peaceful march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery to dramatize to the nation their desire as Black people to participate in the political process.
As they crossed the highest part of the bridge, the marchers were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers, who ridiculed, tear-gassed, clubbed, spat on, whipped and trampled them with their horses. In the end, Lewis’s skull was fractured by a state trooper’s nightstick, and 17 other marchers were hospitalized.
In direct response to Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon Johnson, five months later, signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Considered by many to be one of the greatest victories of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act removed barriers, such as literacy tests, that had long kept Blacks from voting.
Each day, through picture, stories, and documentation, LDF will commemorate the historic and ongoing struggle to secure, protect, and advance voting rights for Black people and other people of color in America. Our countdown calendar will feature historic moments and themes like the Freedom Summer, Women in the Movement, the Human Price of the Right to Vote, and many more.
And even as we reflect on the tremendous strides toward equality that have been made since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we are sober-minded about the reality that the work of advancing and protecting democratic participation is not self-executing. It requires our eternal vigilance.
And so, today, we urge you to join us and our countdown as we recommit ourselves to taking hold of Dr. King’s fundamental belief that, ‘with the power of our votes, we can transform the land.'”