The famous "Selma-to-Montgomery March," the pivotal moment in the American civil rights movement, was actually three marches. Marchers were violently supressed on "Bloody Sunday" (March 7, 1965). Two days later, marchers were again violently rebuffed by law enforcement and armed citizens on "Turnaround Tuesday." Finally, a successful march (in which these men participated) started March 21 and ended peacefully in Montgomery on March 25. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed the marchers in August.

Photograph by Peter Pettus, courtesy U.S. Library of Congress
  • On March 7, 1965, police, state troopers, and a citizen “posse” violently attacked civil rights marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. More than 15 marchers were hospitalized for injuries suffered in an event known as “Bloody Sunday.”
    The marchers, organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), were attempting to walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital. The Selma-to-Montgomery march was intended to draw attention to the violations of civil and voting rights in Alabama and throughout the South. 
    Americans across the nation watched footage of peaceful protesters beaten until they were bloody, injured, and, as in the case of legendary SNCC activist John Lewis, suffered concussions. Days later, after a second attempted march (“Turnaround Tuesday”), a white minister died from injuries suffered. This media attention galvanized the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S.
    A third march, led by Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., reached Montgomery on March 25, 1965. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed five months later. Lewis remembers, "President [Lyndon] Johnson signed that Act, but it was written by the people of Selma."
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Bloody Sunday Noun

    March 7, 1965, when police and supporters violently assaulted peaceful marchers near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

    capital Noun

    city where a region's government is located.

    Encyclopedic Entry: capital
    civil rights Plural Noun

    set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.

    civil rights movement Noun

    (~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.

    concussion Noun

    injury to the brain or spinal column resulting from blunt force.

    footage Noun

    moving images recorded by video or motion picture cameras.

    galvanize Verb

    to stimulate into sudden, dedicated activity.

    intend Verb

    to expect or aim to do something.

    law enforcement Noun

    individuals or organizations that make sure people obey government rules.

    media Noun

    means of mass communication, such as television or the Internet. Singular: medium.

    police Noun

    local, state, or national government organization for law enforcement.

    posse Noun

    group of people who help a sheriff or other official with law enforcement.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    South Noun

    loosely defined geographic region largely composed of states that supported or were sympathetic to the Confederate States of America (Confederacy) during the U.S. Civil War.

    state trooper Noun

    police officer who works for a U.S. state, not a local agency or the federal government.

    voting rights Noun

    issues surrounding the legal right and ability to campaign and cast a vote in political elections.