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50 Years after the Voting Rights Act

The blood of others made it possible for us to live on this Earth and to experience the 21st century.
So many unsung heroes stood up for truth and respected the dignity of human life. I dedicate these
words to the heroes (both known and unsung) who it made for me and you to live in this Earth. It
has been more than 50 years since the establishment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was signed
into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on August 6, 1965. It was a historic moment in the civil
rights movement and in the overall human rights movement. Men, women, and children fought for
voting rights back then. Many people have died for the cause of liberty and justice like Jimmie Lee
Jackson, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb, 3 little girls from the Birmingham Baptist Church,
and so many other heroic human beings. The courageous black people of South fought against
injustice and their efforts have been supported by people of every race and of every nationality.
The Voting Rights Act banned voting restrictions, which disenfranchised minorities and the poor,
especially African Americans in the South. The US Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1789) had
left it to the states to determine voting requirements. Until the Civil War the franchise was
restricted to white men in most southern and even northern states. The Civil War and
Reconstruction resulted in the 13th, (1865) 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Amendments to the
Constitution, which, respectively, outlawed slavery, guaranteed citizenship, and protected voting

Yet, the Northern bourgeoisie made a deal with the southern elite in the 1877 Compromise to get
occupying Union troops out of the South in exchange for neoliberal economic policies in America
(along with the South promoting their states' rights agenda. We know how racists used states
rights to oppress the human rights of black people). The American working class struggles of the
1930s and the 1940s inspired people in Selma as well. Also, women were never allowed the right
to vote during the 20th century. The South soon promoted Jim Crow apartheid from the late 19th
century until the 1960s. Literacy tests and other subjective requirements like poll taxes including
grandfather clauses (which was about stipulating that in order to vote, an applicants grandfather
had to have been a citizen and not a slave) were used by the Southern racist aristocracy to prevent
black people the right to vote just decades ago.

The Voting Rights Act would have not been a reality without the struggle for justice in Selma,
Alabama (and in other places in America). The DCVL, SNCC, the SCLC, and so many other
organizations and people worked together to make sure that voting rights were federally protected.
Human rights are superior to states rights. Thats true. People marched not only in Selma back then
for voting rights. People marched all over the nation in favor of voting rights from New York City,
LA, San Francisco, and everywhere else. Innocent people in Selma, Alabama suffered racist police
brutality in the spring of 1965 on Bloody Sunday and in other incidents as well. This caused enraged
workers and youth of America to expose the hypocrisy of Johnson claiming to fight for freedom in
Vietnam (when the Vietnam War was an imperialist war) while crooked cops were brutalizing
human beings in Selma back during the mid-1960's. Before the bill was passed, it went through both
houses of Congress. The Congressional debate on the bill was a long process. Lyndon Johnson was
dedicated in fighting for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. The bill was introduced in the Senate
by Mike Mansfield (D-MT) and Everett Dirksen (R-IL). It passed the upper chamber on May 26, 1965
by a margin of 77 to 19. An amended version was passed by the House on July 9, 1965 by a margin
of 333 to 85. Almost all of the 104 senators and Congress people who voted against the bill were
Southern Democrats. These southern Democrats opposed racial equality. Later, the 1964
Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act too, because of
federalism issues. Some of the Southern conservative Democrats went into the Republican Party.
The Story of Selma
The Selma movement was at the peak of the early era of the civil rights movement of the 20th
century. The Selma movement was created by, headed by, and executed heavily by black people.
It represented the end of an era. To get an understanding of all of the events, we must look at racial
issues, class issues, economic issues, gender issues, and other subjects. Working class people and
the poor fought for their democratic rights and for equality. This movement wanted all American
citizens irrespective of race to have total voting rights unconditionally. Also, this Selma struggle was
about the fight for equality, the fight against white racist terrorism, and the sacrosanct advocacy of
human justice just like the earlier movements in Albany, Birmingham, and St. Augustine.

Selma is part of the Alabama Black Belt where there is a majority black population. Alabama back
then issued massive disenfranchisement against African Americans via the poll tax and literacy test
including the comprehension of the Constitution. Black people and many poor whites suffered
under this immoral disenfranchisement policy of the state of Alabama. This policy was made into
law by the Alabama state legislature during the early 1900s. So, this unjust legal policy was
opposed by courageous activists. By 1961, the population of Dallas County was 57 percent black,
but of the 15,000 black people old enough to vote; only 130 black people were registered. Also, in
that time, more than 80 percent of Dallas Country black residents lived below the poverty line.
Therefore, economic oppression was a reality in Selma back then and today in 2015. Most were
working as sharecroppers, farm workers, maids, janitors, and day laborers. There were also
teachers and business owners too. Even educated black people were prevented from registering to
The Beginning of the movement

This movement came into a higher level first by the DCVL or the Dallas Country Voters League in
1963. This strong, great organization of the DCVL launched a voters registration campaign in Selma
during the same year. Its members include men and women like Amelia Boynton, Ulysses S.
Blackmon Sr., Samuel Boynton, Bruce Boynton, Rev. Frederick Reese, Rev. L. L. Anderson, J. L.
Chestnut, Annie Lee Cooper, Marie Foster, and James E. Gildersleeve. Members of the Boynton
family, Rev. L. L. Anderson, J. L. Chestnut, and Marie Foster registered black citizens as early as the
late 1950s. Their efforts were blocked by white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan, the White
Citizens Council, and other state including local officials. These white supremacists during the
1960s used racist tactics like threatening peoples jobs, firing them, evicting them from leased
homes, economic boycotts of black owned businesses, and of course violence against black people
to prevent our people to register to vote.

By early 1963, the DCVL agreed to join with SNCC organizers Bernard Lafayette and Colia Liddel
Lafayette to organize a voter registration project together. Bernard, in mid-June, was almost beaten
to death and killed by Klansmen who wanted black people to not vote. Yet, the DCVL and SNCC
including other groups carried on. SNCC organizers Prathia Hall and Worth Long worked in the
movement. They experienced arrests, beatings, and death threats. Even when 32 courageous black
school teachers applied at the county courthouse to register as voters, they were immediately fired
by the all-white school board. One of the evil events done against black people was the Birmingham
church bombing on September 15, 1963. This was when racists killed four black girls who were just
worshipping God in a church. Afterwards, black students in Selma began sit-ins at local lunch
counters to protest segregation. They were physically attacked and arrested. More than 300 people
were arrested in two weeks of protests including SNCC Chairman John Lewis.

In October 7, 1963 was one of the two days when residents were allowed to go to the courthouse
to apply to register to vote. So, the DCVL and SNCCs James Forman mobilized more than 300 blacks
from Dallas County to line up at the voter registration office in what was called a Freedom Day.
Many national figures supported this day like Dick Gregory and his wife Lilian (she was later
arrested for picketing with SNCC activists and local supporters), and author James Baldwin. SNCC
members were arrested for just bringing water to black people waiting on line to vote. They wore
signs saying Register to Voter. The bad news is that after people waited all day in the hot sun,
only a handful of the hundreds in the line were allowed to fill out the voter application. Most of the
applications were denied by white county officials. United States Justice Department lawyers and
FBI agents were present and observed the scene. Yet, they took no action against local officials who
were abusing the human rights of black people in Selma. On June 21, 1964, three civil rights
activists by the names of James Chaney (who was an African American), Michael Schwerner, and
Andrew Goodman were killed by a gang of Ku Klux Klansmen. All 3 young men were involved in the
Freedom Summer campaign of 1964 that desired to add tens of thousands of disenfranchised
African Americans to voter rolls in the state of Mississippi. Their bodies were found in an earthen
dam 44 days later. The Freedom Summer voter education and registration drive was led by the
Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), which included the Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The
radicalized students of SNCC took the lead.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. This law
banned segregation in public facilities. The Civil Rights Act was created as a product of a struggle by
the working class, the poor, and other courageous activists defeating fierce, racist opposition. Some
Jim Crow laws and customs existed in Selma and in other places for some time even after 1964.
When activists used efforts to integrate Selmas eating and entertainment venues, white racists
beat and arrested people.

Jim Clark and John Wallace were the antagonists during the Selma events decades ago.

On July 6, 1964, one of the two registration days in that month, John Lewis led 50 black citizens to
the courthouse. Yet, County Sheriff Jim Clark arrested them all without allowing them to apply to
vote. On July 9, 1964, Judge James Haire issued an injunction. This injunction banned any gathering
of three or more people under the sponsorship of civil rights organizations or leaders. So, the
injunction made it illegal for more than 2 people at a time to talk about civil rights or voter
registration in Selma, suppressing public civil rights activists there for the next six months.
It is very important to make this point. The point is that women (especially black women) had a
leadership role in the Selma freedom struggle. Black women have always been the backbone of the
movement or black liberation. Mrs. Ameila Boynton was a stalwart leader in the movement.
She worked with young courageous SNCC activists to fight for liberation. Sister Colia Liddel
Lafayette promoted grassroots activism. Prathia Hall (who was a member of SNCC),
Diane Nash, Harriet Richardson, Mrs. Richie Jean Jackson, and other Black Women
worked so hard in Selma in fighting for not only voting rights, but for human rights too.

The Selma Campaign grows

The year of 1965 was the time of what we know mostly about the Selma freedom movement, but
this movement existed long before 1965. The 1965 Selma campaign began in January of 1965.
Judge Hares injunction was still in place. So, the President of the DCVL Frederick Douglas Reese
requested assistance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC (or the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference). The SCLC joined the DCVL and SNCC in fighting for voting rights in Selma.
SNCC activists and leaders James Bevel (Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent
Education), Diane Nash, and James Orange worked in Bevels Alabama Voting Rights Project since
late 1963. Early 1965 was the time when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the executive board of the
SCLC joined the campaign. The original DCVL 8 or the Courageous 8 included Ulysses S. Blackmon,
Sr., Amelia Boynton, Ernest Doyle, Marie Foster, James Gildersleeve, J.D. Hunter, Sr., Dr. Frederick
Douglas Reese, Sr., and Henry Shannon, Sr. worked hard. During this time, tensions existed between
SCLC and SNCC. Once during the late 1950s and early 1960s, SCLC was the youthful organization
competing against the more conservative NAACP. By 1965, SCLC was the center left organization
while SNCC was the new, more revolutionary organization. The 1964 Democratic National
Convention in Atlantic City caused SNCC to reject more of establishment Democratic politics (as the
SNCCs MFDP was prevented from having total representation in the Democratic National
Convention of 1964). SNCC was more egalitarian and democratic in their structure and organization
than the SCLC. SNCC advanced grassroots democracy, and a more bottom up program.

Some SNCC members disagreed with SCLCs spectacular mobilization as they view it as more
appealing to the national media and Washington politics instead of indirectly improving the lives of
African Americans on the group. John Lewis was the bridge builder or the mediator between SNCC
and the SCLC (as he was a member of both organizations). So, John Lewis worked with SNCC and
SCLC members to continue with the Selma voting campaign. SNCC used Fay Bellamy and Silas
Norman to work as full time organizers in Selma. In essence, SCLC was in the center of the
movement ideologically, the NAACP was on the right, and SNCC including CORE was to the left
politically. Yet, the SCLC and SNCC both agreed on freedom, justice, and equality for all black
people. There were overt white supremacists in Selma and moderates like Mayor Joseph
Smitherman who wanted Northern business investment instead of conflict. Veteran cop Wilson
Bakers wanted to de-escalate conflict, so the civil rights activists would leave Selma. Sheriff Jim
Clark was the opposite of Baker. Jim Clark was angry, confrontational, a racist, and he loved to put
people into jail. Jim Clark has a posse of 200 deputies and some of them were members of the Ku
Klux Klan chapters or the National States Rights Party. These posse men had electric cattle prods.
Some were mounted on horseback and carried long leather whip to lash people on foot. Bakers
police patrolled the city except for the block on the courthouse. Clark and his deputies controlled
the countrys courthouse.

Outside of the city limits, Sheriff Jim Clark and his volunteer posse exercised complete control of the

January 2, 1965 was the start of the Selma Voting Rights Campaign. Dr. King spoke in a mass
meeting in Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction. Chief Baker said
that he wont enforce the injunction as Clark was out of town. The SCLC and SNCC members
expanded voter registration drives and protesters in Selma and in the adjacent Black Belt countries.
Diane Nash headed the preparation of mass registrations while Dr. King was fundraising out of
town. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called President Lyndon Johnson and both of them agreed with the
major push for voting rights legislation which would assist the passage of more anti-poverty
legislation. SCLC and SNCC wanted to portray Clark as another Bull Connor or a bigot of the Old
South who wanted to violate the human rights of black people. They were successful. Clark was the
overt protagonist and a vicious racist. On January 18, Dr. King returned to Selma and the big
Freedom Day campaign started. Dr. King and John Lewis lead 300 marchers out of the Brown
Chapel church. Chief Baker wanted to use chess by using his police to be cordial toward the
demonstrators. Yet, Sheriff Clark was aggressive. Clark refused to let black registrants to enter the
county courthouse. Clark made no arrests or assaults in that time. Yet, Dr. King was knocked down
and kicked by a leader of the National States Rights Party. The racist white man was quickly arrested
by Chief Baker. Baker also arrested the head of the American Nazi Party George Lincoln Rockwell.
Rockwell wanted to prevent King from protesting in Selma.

After the assault on Dr. King by the white supremacist in January of 1965, the black nationalist
leader Malcolm X had sent an open telegram to George Lincoln Rockwell, stating: "if your
present racist agitation against our people there in Alabama causes physical
harmyou and your KKK friends will be met with maximum physical retaliation from
those of us who ... believe in asserting our right to self-defense-by any means

During the next week, more black people continued to try to register to vote. Sheriff Clark
responded by arresting organizers, including Amelia Boynton and Hosea Williams on January 19,
1965. Eventually 225 registrants were arrested as well at the county courthouse. Their cases were
handled by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. On January 20, President Johnson gave his inaugural
address, but did not mention voting rights. J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI also harassed Dr. King and
used illegal surveillance against Dr. King, other civil rights leaders, anti-war activists, and other
progressive people who opposed the status quo.

We will remember the courage and the memory of the late, great Jimmie Lee Jackson. The
strong black woman in the middle is Annie Lee Cooper.

The Turning Point

Up to this point, the majority of registrants and marchers were working class people, blue collar
workers, students, and sharecroppers. On January 22, Frederick Reese, a black schoolteacher who
was also DCVL President, finally convinced his colleagues to join the campaign and register en
masse. When they refused Sheriff Clark's orders to disperse at the courthouse, an ugly scene
commenced. Clark's posse beat the teachers away from the door, but they rushed back only to be
beaten again. The teachers retreated after three attempts, and marched to a mass meeting where
they were celebrated as heroes by the black community. On January 25, U.S. District Judge Daniel
Thomas issued rules requiring that at least 100 people must be permitted to wait at the courthouse
without being arrested. Dr. King led marchers to courthouse on that morning in January 25. Jim
Clark started to arrest all registrants in excess of 100. He corralled the rest. Annie Lee Cooper was a
fifty three year old practical nurse. She was part of the Selma movement since 1963. She worked in
the Torch Motel, which was black owned. She was fearless. Mrs. Cooper confronted Sheriff Clark.
She told him, Aint nobody scared around here. Clark and his deputies were pushing people.
Later, Clark shoved Annie Lee Cooper hard. She then came back and punched Sheriff Clark in the
head in self-defense. Clark was angry and was about the fight back, but cameras were there, so he
hesitated. Cooper said to Clark: I wish you would hit me you scum! Later, Sheriff Clark, in a
cowardly movie, hit Cooper in the head. Clark repeatedly beat Mrs. Cooper with his club. Other
cops jumped Mrs. Cooper and beat her down to the ground. She was arrested and her head was
bleeding. Newspapers recorded the incident nationwide. Her right eye was bloody. The movement
rallied for Annie Lee Cooper for her bravery. Bevel made the mistake of originally deploring her
actions and then changing his mind in the Jet magazine interview later. Annie Lee Cooper is a
courageous black woman.

On February 1, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy lead a protest and refuse to
break into smaller groups. They didnt want to cooperate with Chief Bakers traffic direction on the
way to the courthouse knowing that they would be arrested. So, both of them were arrested and
placed in a Selma jail. They refuse to be bonded out. On the same day, SCLC and SNCC organizers
took the campaign outside of Dallas County for the first time; in nearby Perry County 700 students
and adults, including James Orange, were arrested. On the same day, students from Tuskegee
Institute, working in cooperation with SNCC, were arrested for acts of civil disobedience in solidarity
with the Selma campaign. In New York and Chicago, Friends of SNCC chapters staged sit-ins at
Federal buildings in support of Selma blacks, and CORE chapters in the North and West also
mounted protests. Solidarity pickets began circling in front of the White House late into the night.

I pray that God will bless you in everything that you do. I pray that you will grow intellectually, so
that you can understand the problems of the world and where you fit into, in that world picture.
And I pray that all the fear that has ever been in your heart will be taken out, and when you look at
that man, if you know hes nothing but a coward, you wont fear him. If he wasnt a coward, he
wouldnt gang up on you. He wouldnt need to sneak around here. This is how they function. They
function in mobs thats a coward. They put on a sheet so you wont know who they are thats
a coward. No! The time will come when that sheet will be ripped off. If the federal government
doesnt take it off, well take it off

-Malcolm X in February 4, 1965 at Selma, Alabama

Malcolm X came to address students at Tuskegee Institute in February 3, 1965. Fay Bellamy and
Silas Norman attended a talk by Malcolm X to 3,000 students at the Tuskegee Institute, and invited
him to address a mass meeting at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to kick off the protests on the
morning of February 4. Malcolm X has changed so much since he left the Nation of Islam. He
believed in internationalism, he opposed capitalism by his own words, he condemned the Vietnam
War, he disagreed with the Johnson administration explicitly on numerous issues (as Malcolm X said
that the Democratic Party was one major factions stifling the efforts of black people to have
liberation. For example, many Southern Democrats back then allied with the advocates of Jim
Crow and segregation), and he supported the Selma freedom movement. Likewise, he was in favor
of self-defense (as he rejected being nonviolent towards people who are violent against people)
and he was very strong in his views. He wanted to support the human rights movement and make
certain that if nonviolence wont grant black people voting rights, then self-defense is a legitimate
option to fight for liberation. Hes right. Also, Malcolm X wanted the oppressed worldwide to fight
back against the exploiter (which was the Western, international power structure as he put it).
Malcolm X was never a racist as he judged people by their conscious behavior and not on skin color.
On February 4, 1965, Malcolm X spoke to a crowd at Brown Chapel. It was filled with SNCC youth
and other activists.

This image shows the funeral service of the late Brother Malcolm X.

In that speech, Malcolm X spoke in favor of self-defense against the Klan, he talked about house vs.
field Negroes (meaning the house negroes were sellout black people while field Negroes were
strong black people who wanted justice), and he wanted black people to stand up against injustice
if the federal government was unable or unwilling to defend the rights of black Americans. Dr. King
thought that Malcolm X was talking about him when he used the word house negro, but Coretta
Scott King told Dr. King that Malcolm X had no personal animosity towards Dr. King. Malcolm X
wanted to contrast the differences of tactics of achieving the same goal, which is black liberation.
Malcolm X told Coretta Scott King that he thought to aid the campaign by warning white people
what "the alternative" would be if Dr. King failed in Alabama. Bellamy recalled that Malcolm X told
her he would begin recruiting in Alabama for his Organization of Afro-American Unity later that
month (Malcolm was assassinated two weeks later on February 21, 1965 in Washington Heights,
New York City. He was murdered in the Audubon Ballroom). On the same day, President Lyndon
Johnson makes his first public statement supporting the Selma campaign. 2 days later on February
6, 1965, President Johnson says he will urge Congress to enact a voting rights bill during the
sessions. Governor George C. Wallace back in those days was a vicious racist. He or Wallace banned
nighttime demonstrations in Selma and Marion. He assigned 75 troopers to enforce the
The Sister in the far left is singing Woman singing outside the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma,
Alabama in 1965. All of the pictures show people who were involved in the Selma freedom movement.

On February 18, 1965, the movement would change forever. On that day, C.T. Vivian led a march to
the courthouse in Marion or the county seat of the neighboring Perry County to protest the arrest
of James Orange (of the SCLC). State officials had received orders to target Vivian. A line of Alabama
state troopers waited for the marchers at Perry County courthouse. Then the officials had turned
off all the nearby street lights and state troopers rushed the protesters. The cops attacked the
protesters. Protesters Jimmie Lee Jackson and his mother fled the scene to hide in a nearby caf.
Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler followed Jackson in Marks caf and killed him. He lied
and said that Jackson was trying to get his gun as they grappled. The truth is that the police clubbed
Cager Lee (or Jacksons grandfather) in the floor of the kitchen. Viola or his mother tried to pull the
police off and she was beaten too. Jackson tried to protect his mother as any man or any human
being in general would. Jimmie Lee Jackson had every God-given right to defend and protect his
mother. One trooper threw him against a cigarette machine and the second trooper shot Jackson
twice in the abdomen. Jackson was still alive, but he was hit by the police later after he fled the
caf. He later died. Jimmie Lee Jackson died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma on February 26,
1965. The murderer Fowler was never convicted initially in the 1960s. He was convicted in 2010 for
only six months in jail.

After Jimmie Lee Jackson murder, people were rightfully angry. Emotions were high in the Zion
United Methodist Church in Marion on February 28. James Bevel called for a march from Selma to
Montgomery to protest Jacksons death. Dr. King agreed with the plan. SNCC at first has issues with
the march when they heard that Dr. King would not be present. Governor Wallace didnt want the
march since he wanted the Voting Rights Act to not be passed by Congress and he was a stone cold
racist back then.
Bloody Sunday

The first march (or attempt to travel to Montgomery from Selma) would be called Bloody Sunday.
On March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 civil rights marchers headed east of Selma on U.S.
highway 80. Dr. King wasnt present in this march. The march was led by John Lewis of SNCC and by
the Reverend Hosea Williams of the SCLC (followed by SNCC activists Bob Mants and Albert Turner).
The protest went according to plan. The problem when they or the marches crossed the Edmund
Pettus Bridge and entered Dallas County, they encountered a wall of state troopers. The county
posse was waiting for them on the other side. County Sheriff Jim Clark issued an order where all
white males in Dallas County over 21 to report to the courthouse to be deputized in that morning.
Commanding officer John Cloud told the demonstrators to disband at once and go home. Rev.
Hosea Williams tried to speak to the officer, but Cloud curtly informed him there was nothing to
discuss. Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators, knocking many to the ground
and beating them with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas, and mounted
troopers charged the crowd on horseback. National and international audiences saw the horrifying
images of the marchers left bloodied and severely injured. This increased support for the Selma
Voting rights campaign nationwide. Amelia Boynton helped to organize the march and she was
beaten unconscious. A photograph of her lying on the road of the Edmund Pettus Bridge appeared
on the front page of newspapers and news magazines around the world. In all, 17 marchers were
hospitalized and 50 treated for lesser injuries.

People deplored the police brutality against peaceful protesters in Selma. After the march,
President Johnson issued an immediate statement "deploring the brutality with which a number of
Negro citizens of Alabama were treated..." He also promised to send a voting rights bill to Congress
that week, although it took him until March 15. SNCC officially joined the Selma campaign putting
aside disagreements about SCLCs tactics. SNCC organized sit in sin Washington, D.C. after Bloody
Sunday. Some occupied the office of Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach until they were dragged
away. Even the Executive Board of the NAACP unanimously passed a resolution to condemn the
police terrorism during Bloody Sunday.

Bevel, Dr. King, Diane Nash, and other organized a second march to happen on Tuesday on March 9,
1965. Citizens from across the nation came to Selma to participate in the march. Many people were
shocked by the television images of black people being brutalized.
The Second March (or Turnaround Tuesday)

The SCLC, SNCC, the DCVL, etc. didnt want another outbreak of police brutality. So, SCLC tried to
get a court order that would ban the police from interfering with the march. Yet, the Federal
District Court Judge Frank Mins Johnson issued a restraining order. This order banned the march
from taking place until he could hold additional hearings later in the week. SCLC hoped for Judge
Johnson to end the restraining order. They hoped that he would come around. SCLC needed
infrastructure for a long march. People were determined to march. Both Hosea Williams and James
Forman argued that the march must proceed, and by the early morning of the march date, Dr. King
had decided to lead people to Montgomery. People wanted to oppose voting rights violations and
racist terrorism against black people in Alabama. Assistant Attorney General John Doar and Florida
Governor Leroy, representing President Lyndon Johnson, went to Selma to meet with King and
others at Richie Jean Jackson's house and privately urged King to postpone the march. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. (who was the SCLC President) told them that his conscience demanded that he

Also, he said that many movement supporters like those from SNCC would continue with the march
anyway. Collins suggested to King that he will march to the bridge and turn back to Selma. Dr. King
agreed with the plan unless that law enforcement would not attack them. Collins obtained this
guarantee from Sheriff Clark and Al Lingo in exchange for a guarantee that King would follow a
precise route drawn up by Clark. This was a secret deal without the input from SNCC or the DCVL.
The march happened in March 9th. It was called Turnabout Tuesday. Collins handed Dr. King the
secretly agreed on route. King led about 2,500 marchers out on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and held
a short prayer session before turning them around, thereby obeying the court order preventing
them from making the full march, and following the agreement made by Collins, Lingo and Clark. He
did not venture across the border into the county, even though the police unexpectedly stood aside
to let them enter.
This image showed Archbishop Iakovos (who was a strong advocate for civil rights and human
rights), Martin Luther King Jr., and other dignitaries walking to the Dallas County Courthouse to
hang a funeral wreath in honor of Reverend James Reeb, a civil rights activist who was beaten and
killed by white segregationists. They are marching in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. This
photograph is found in Dan Budniks book entitled, Marching to the Freedom Dream, which
includes an essay by Harry Belafonte and has just been published by Trolley.

People felt disappointed with the Turnaround March, because some viewed this as an act of
compromise, which it was. It was a trying time for Dr. King since people didnt know about this plan
until the morning of the march. Dr. King wanted a third march to travel from Selma to Montgomery.
That evening, three white Unitarian Universalist ministers in Selma for the march were attacked on
the street and beaten with clubs by four KKK members. The worst injured was James Reeb from
Boston. Fearing that Selma's public hospital would refuse to treat Rev. Reeb, activists took him to
Birmingham's University Hospital, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University
Hospital, with his wife by his side. James Reebs death provoked outrage and mourning nationwide.
There were vigils, etc. Blacks in Dallas County and the Black Belt mourned the death of Reeb, as
they had earlier mourned the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson. But many activists were bitter that the
media and national political leaders expressed great concern over the murder of Reeb, a northern
white person in Selma, but had paid scant attention to that of Jackson, a local African American.
SNCC organizer Kwame Ture argued that "the movement itself is playing into the hands of racism,
because what you want as a nation is to be upset when anybody is killed [but] for it to be
recognized, a white person must be killed -Well, what are you saying?" SNCC members questioned
Kings action of the Turnaround March. Tuskegee Institute students marched to the Alabama State
Capitol and delivered a petition to Governor Wallace. James Forman and much of the SNCC staff
from Selma went to go independently. On March 11, a SNCC led demonstration was held in
Montgomery. Bevel disagreed with Forman. Bevel was from SCLC and Forman was from SNCC.
Bevel accused Forman of violating nonviolent discipline. Forman accused Bevel of driving a wedge
between the student movement and the local black churches. The argument was resolved only
when both were arrested.
SNCC led several hundred demonstrators including Alabama students, Northern students, and local
adults in protests near the capital complex. The Montgomery County sheriff's posse met them on
horseback and drove them back, whipping them. Against the objections of James Bevel, some
protesters threw bricks and bottles at police. At a mass meeting on the night of the 16th, Forman
talked to the crowd and he demanded that the President act to protect demonstrators, and
warned, If we cant sit at the table of democracy, well knock the f_____ legs off.

Although Dr. King was concerned by Formans words, but he joined him in leading a march of 2000
people in Montgomery to the Montgomery County courthouse.

According to historian Gary May, City officials, also worried by the violent turn of events
apologized for the assault on SNCC protesters and invited King and Forman to discuss how to
handle future protests in the city. In the negotiations, Montgomery officials agreed to stop using
the county posse against protesters, and to issue march permits to blacks for the first time.
Governor Wallace did not negotiate, however. He continued to have state police arrest any
demonstrators who ventured onto Alabama State property of the capitol complex.
Demonstrators (in the image of the left) supported the progressive citizens of Selma and
Montgomery and they demanded Voting Rights Now in the picture. Here, the protesters block
Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

More Activism

On March 11, 1965, 7 Selma solidarity activists sat in the East Wing of the White House until they
were arrested. Dozens of other protesters also occupy the White House, but they were stopped by
guards. They blocked Pennsylvania Avenue instead. On March 12, civil rights advocates wanted LBJ
to pass the voting rights bill. They included Bishop Paul Moore, Reverend Robert Spike, and SNCC
representative H. Rap Brown. Johnson said that the White House protests were disturbing to his
family. The activists said that they want his family to sleep, but that freedom and justice are more
important than certain inconveniences. They or SNCC wanted a voting rights bill sent to Congress
and federal troops sent to Alabama to protect the protesters. In this same period, SNCC, CORE, and
other groups continued to organize protests in more than eighty cities, actions that included 400
people blocking the entrances and exits of the Los Angeles Federal Building. Johnson told the press
that he didnt want to be blackjacked into action by unruly pressure groups. Lyndon Johnson
forgotten that SNCC and other freedom fighters werent some pressure groups. They were
courageous activists fighting for liberation in the streets of America. The next day he or Johnson
arranged a personal meeting with Governor Wallace, urging him to use the Alabama National Guard
to protect marchers. He also began preparing the final draft of his Voting Rights bill.

On March 11, Attorney General Katzenbach announced that the federal government was intending
to prosecute local and state officials who were responsible for the attacks on the marchers on
March 7. He would use an 1870 civil rights law as the basis for charges.

These are the people of Alabama watching the marchers march from Selma to Montgomery in
March 1965.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson issued his historic March 15 speech in a joint session of Congress.
He told Congress about his new voting rights bill. He wanted Congress to pass it. He gave a historic
presentation. His speech was carried on national live television. Johnson praised the courage of the
African American activists. He spoke of Selma in these terms of: "a turning point in man's unending
search for freedom" on a par with the Battle of Appomattox in the American. Johnson added that
his entire Great Society program, not only the Voting Rights Bill, was part of the Civil Rights
Movement. He adopted language associated with Dr. King, declaring that "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." Afterward, King sent a telegram to Johnson congratulating him for his speech, calling it
"the most moving eloquent unequivocal and passionate plea for human rights ever made by any
president of this nation." 2 days later, Johnsons Voting Rights Bill was formally introduced in
The March from Selma to Montgomery

The start of the march from Selma to Montgomery came after Wednesday, March 17, 1965. This
was when federal judge Johnson ruled in favor the protesters. The Judge said that the protesters
have the First Amendment right to march and that couldnt be abridged by the state of Alabama at
all. This was a week after Reebs death. Judge Johnson sympathized with the protesters for some
days. He withheld the order until he received an iron clad commitment of enforcement from the
White House. President Johnson wanted Wallace to protect the marchers or at least give the
President permission to send troops. Wallace refused to do either action as he believed in states
rights. So, the President gave his commitment to Judge Johnson on the morning of March 17 that
he would protect the marchers. The President federalized the Alabama National Guard on March
20. Also, Johnson sent 1,000 military policemen and 2,000 army troops to escort the march from
Selma. The ground operation was supervised by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Johnson sent Joseph A. Califano Jr. (who served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense
back then) to outline the progress of the march. Califano reported on the march at regular intervals
for the four days.

March 21 was when almost 8,000 people assembled at Brown chapel A.M.E. Church to commence
the trek to Montgomery. Most of the people there were black Americans, but there were also white
people, Asians, and Latino human beings there as well. Spiritual leaders of many races, religions,
and creeds marched abreast with Dr. King like Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Greek Orthodox
Archbishop, Rabbis Abraham Joshua Herschel (who was a great friend of Dr. King. Many brave
Jewish people worked in the Civil Rights Movement to advocate for freedom and justice for all) and
Maurice, and at least one nun, all of whom were depicted in a photo that has become famous. The
Dutch priest Henri Nouwen joined the march on March 24. In 1965, the road to Montgomery was
four lanes wide going east from Selma. It narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County and
widened to four lanes again at the Montgomery county border. Under the terms of Judge Johnson's
order, the march was limited to no more than 300 participants for the two days they were on the
two-lane portion of Highway-80. At the end of the first day, most of the marchers returned to Selma
by bus and car, leaving 300 to camp overnight and take up the journey the next day.

This picture showed protester crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 21, 1965.

On March 22, and 23, 300 protesters marched in chilling rain across Lowndes County. They camped
in muddy fields. At the time of the march, the population of Lowndes County was 81% black and
19% white, but not a single black human being was registered to vote. There were 2,240 whites
registered to vote in Lowndes County, a figure that represented 118% of the adult white population
(in many southern counties of that era it was common practice to retain white voters on the rolls
after they died or moved away). This is why Kwame Ture and other would go into Lowndes County
and register black people to vote for political power. Kwame Ture and Cleveland Sellers worked
hard and courageously to register voters in Lowndes County. Later, Kwame Ture formed the
Lowndes Country Freedom Organization, which promoted black power and had a Black Panther as a
logo. During the morning of March 24, the march crossed into Montgomery County. The highway
was again in four lanes. More marches came by bus and car to join the line. There were thousands
of marches by the evening. Their final campsite at the City of St. Jude was a complex on the
outskirts of Montgomery. A Stars for Freedom rally was created in a makeshift stage. Those
performed were singers Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy
Davis, Jr., Baez, Nina and The Chad Mitchell Trio. Thousands more people continued to join the

This image shows thousands of people in Montgomery standing up for justice in March 25, 1965.
This is Kwame Ture (in the image to the left) inspiring the black man to register to vote, so the black
community in Alabama can be strengthened.

On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people marched from St. Jude to the steps of the State Capitol
Building where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous speech entitled, "How Long, Not
Long." Dr. King in the speech said the following famous words:

"...To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development
of a segregated society. (Right) I want you to follow me through here because this is very important
to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media,
they revised the doctrine of white supremacy...I know you are asking today, "How long will it
take?" (Speak, sir) Somebodys asking, "How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken
their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?" Somebodys asking,
"When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and
communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the
children of men?" Somebodys asking, "When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the
nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, (Speak, speak, speak) plucked from weary souls with chains of
fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?" (Yes,

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the
hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because "truth crushed to earth will rise again." (Yes, sir)

How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because "no lie can live forever." (Yes, sir)

How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because "you shall reap what you sow." (Yes, sir)

How long? (How long?) Not long: (Not long)

Truth forever on the scaffold, (Speak)

Wrong forever on the throne, (Yes, sir)

Yet that scaffold sways the future, (Yes, sir)

And, behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow,

Keeping watch above his own.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Yes,

How long? Not long, (Not long) because:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; (Yes, sir)

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; (Yes)

He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword; (Yes, sir)

His truth is marching on. (Yes, sir)

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; (Speak, sir)

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat. (Thats right)

O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet!

Our God is marching on. (Yeah)

Glory, hallelujah! (Yes, sir) Glory, hallelujah! (All right)

Glory, hallelujah! Glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on. [Applause]"

After delivering the speech, Dr. King and the marchers approached the entrance to the capitol with
a petition for Governor Wallace. A line of state troopers blocked the door. One announced that the
governor was not in. Undeterred, the marchers remained at the entrance until one of Wallace's
secretaries appeared and took the petition. Later in the night, Viola Liuzzo (a civil right activist who
wanted voting rights for black people. Viola was from Michigan during the time) was assassinated
by Ku Klux Klan members.

Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo was born in California, Pennsylvania, which is a coal mining town in the
southwestern part of the state. After she watched the events of Bloody Sunday, Viola came to join
the Selma to Montgomery march two weeks later. Viola Liuzzo was a fighter against oppression.
She was driving with the 19 year old African American activist Leroy Moton. They were driving in
Route 80. Later, a car with four Klan members forced them off the road. Liuzzo was driving an
Oldsmobile. 3 men shot directly at Liuzzo, which hit her twice in the head and killed her instantly.
The car veered into a ditch and crashed into a fence. Moton was covered in blood and the bullets
missed him. He lay motionless. When the Klansmen left, Moton searched for help. Rev. Riley was
driving a truck and helped Moton. Rev Riley was, like Moton and Liuzzo, shuttling civil rights
workers back to Selma. She was driving marches from Montgomery to Selma. Luizzos funeral was
held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church on March 30, 1965. It was attended by many
labor and civil rights leaders. One Klansmen in the car with the murderers was the FBI informant
Gary Rowe who fired the shots. The trial of the three KKK killers fingered by FBI informant Rowe
ended in a hung jury; the second, in an acquittal. The three Klansmen were finally convicted in a
third trial on charges of violating Liuzzos civil rights and sentenced to 10 years in prison each.

These are black people walking in the rain in order for them to register to vote.

This third march (from Selma to Montgomery) was huge nationally and internationally. Voter
registration drives increased in black majority areas of the South. During 1965, Martin Luther King
was promoting an economic boycott of Alabama products to put pressure on the State to integrate
schools and employment. There was the Hammermill boycott of the Hammermill paper company. It
is found in Selma. SNCC called for a national boycott of Hammermill paper product until they ended
racist policies. SCLC joined the boycott. The company called a meeting of the corporate leadership,
SCLC's C.T. Vivian, and Oberlin student leadership. Their discussions led to Hammermill executives
signing an agreement to support integration in Alabama. C.T. Vivian, who was an SCLC activist and
so many women were involved in the Selma movement. President Lyndon Johnson signed the
Voting Rights Act in August 1965, which outlawed the overtly flagrant and longstanding violations of
the post-Civil War 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. LBJ was dealing and
responding to the crisis of the movement of the working class. Dr. King was in the midst of many
factions like the conservative leaderships of the NAACP, the Urban League, and some section of the
black church on one side and the more progressive organizations of the groups of CORE, SNCC, etc.
on the other side. These groups wanted the same goal, but differed on tactics.
The Aftermath

The black masses worked in the movement courageously. The American ruling class knew it was
hypocritical to see segregation in America while they were promoting the faux image of
democracy overseas & domestically. Also, they or the U.S. capitalist elitists promoted imperialism
in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Greece, etc. So, the Voting Rights Act was passed after a mass
struggle of the masses of the people (which was multiethnic) came about. This era was during the
Cold War where the postwar boom was soon to unravel. The heroic work of SNCC and DCVL
members were priceless in the voting rights fight in Selma. Young children were involved in the
movement too like Sheyann Webb and Rachel West. The Selma movement represented the end of
the first era of the civil rights movement. After the events of Selma, there was the start a new era of
the civil rights movement which dealt more with economic issues, social issues, and the situations
of black people of the communities of the North, the Midwest, and the West Coast. That is why the
rebellion of Watts came immediately after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law (as citizens of
Los Angeles back in 1965 were tired of racism, discrimination, police brutality, economic
deprivation, and other injustices).

This image shows the California National Guard in Watts in Los Angeles, California.

The Watts rebellion (in Los Angeles) and the subsequent occupation by the police and the National
Guard troops resulted in 36 people dead, 1,000 injured, 4,000 arrested and $200 million in buildings
and other property destroyed. More than 15,000 troops and 1,000 police were mobilized. The
rebellion existed within a 50-square-mile area. Appalling conditions of economic deprivation and
racial oppression in the Watts ghetto were the causes of the rebellion. Back then in Watts, more
than 100,000 people lived crammed into a relatively small area, many living in run-down housing
projects. The unemployment rate in Watts was 30 percent and half the population was on welfare,
under conditions where the US economy overall was at the height of the postwar boom. Times
were changing and more had to be done to make society truly egalitarian.

In other words, it is fine to dismantle segregation and to have the right to vote, but we also need
to provide decent jobs and improve the social conditions of the entire people. Political and
economic power should be in the hands of the people. The definition of revolution is a radical
change in society where the people have the power to control their destinies socially, politically,
and economically (with a radical redistribution of political and economic power). You cant have
justice & true social equality without economic justice. Also, there is no solution without the end
of the system of racism/white supremacy point blank period exclamation point. Kwame Tures
speech in favor of Black Power in 1966 (in Greenwood, Mississippi) and the rise of the Black Panther
Party in 1966 as well were events which represented an evolution and an important continuation of
the black freedom struggle. Regardless of our diversity of thought as black people, we all want the
same goal (which is freedom, justice, and equality for black people and for the rest of the human
race). Not to mention that the FBI intensified its attack on the black freedom struggle via
COINTELPRO and other actions. Today, 41.9 percent of Selma falls below the poverty line, which is a
tragedy. To his credit, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. later on began to overtly talk about the necessity
for real social equality, the necessity to help the poor (and to eradicate poverty), the need to have
solidarity with international movements against colonialism overseas, and the necessity for
economic justice.
After Selma, the black freedom movement became more revolutionized and it more directly
confronted the power structure (who lectured people about time when justice should never be
delayed. Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice should come ASAP). The Selma movement showed
how effective grassroots community organizing is in a revolutionary struggle for justice. SNCC
would evolve and ally with Black Nationalist ideologies and Black Power. On July 4, 1966, the 23nd
annual convention of the Congress on Racial Equality or CORE adopted Black Power as its political
slogan for the U.S. civil rights movement. The convention also adopted resolutions opposing U.S.
military involvement in the Vietnam War and offered support for draft resisters. Its new national
director was Floyd D. McKissick. He criticized President Johnson and the more conservative civil
rights organizations. He also invited members of the Nation of Islam to the conference, who
attended dressed in military style uniforms.

James Farmer by this time retired as director of CORE in March 1, 1966. So, CORE by the late 1960s,
embraced Black Nationalism. The irony is that many black nationalists (not all as many black
nationalists are progressive) then and now used radical rhetoric, but some of them represented a
rival middle class faction that didnt oppose the capitalist system. Some wanted a piece of the
action within capitalism which is a profound contradiction. In other words, an economic & political
system based on the exploitation of human beings in a competitive, selfish mechanism can never
enact true liberation for all. Likewise, many moderate civil rights leaders would engage even more
in the capitalist system (especially after 1968) to follow the agenda of the corporate 2 party system
instead of embracing political independence. The masses of black working people including the
poor must be part of the solution making process (to oppose economic exploitation and promote
economic, racial, environmental, gender, and social justice) in order for justice to be made real. A
real revolutionary wants the end of a corrupt system and replace it with a system of justice.
There was a massive cultural change in America during the 1960s too. More black people by the
1960s spoke the truth that Black is Beautiful and became more outspoken in many political and
social issues. More black people were in the realms of STEM fields, acting, dance, athletics,
theater, economics, art, architecture, the judiciary, journalism, music, and other arenas of human
existence. The Black Panthers, Muhammad Ali, Nichelle Nichols, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other
Brothers and Sisters represent the progressive changes happening in the world. One of the
greatest parts of the Black Power movement is that this movement promoted the two truths

During this time (of the late 1960s), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became more progressive. CORE was
founded in 1942. It worked in desegregating interstate travel, voter registration, lunch counter sit-
ins, and the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s. CORE ironically by the end of the 1960s would be
more conservative. For example, CORE supported the Presidency of Richard Nixon (who
modernized the War on Drugs, attacked the Black Panthers, and he followed many reactionary
policies) in 1968 and 1972. In 1968, Roy Innis declared CORE (which accepted a 1968 grant from the
Ford Foundation to work for Carl Stokes mayoral campaign in Cleveland) to be a Black Nationalist
and separatist organization. Many left wing, liberal people left the organization including the entire
Brooklyn branch because of the rightwing turn of CORE (Innis changed CORE from its originally
progressive mission. Multinational corporations like Monsanto fund CORE. Innis son Nigel Innis
continues in his fathers conservative agenda). During the 1970s, Roy Innis and CORE supported
Republicans and he even ran as a Republican political candidate. Roy Innis supported George W.
Bush when he was President. Therefore, CORE was into the conservative wing of the black freedom
movement by the late 1960s and in the 1970s. I disagree with Roy Innis ideologically on many
issues. Roy Innis recently passed away at the age of 82 on the day of January 8, 2017 from
Parkinsons disease. I do send condolences to his family and friends. Today, during the 21st century,
we are still fighting against imperialism, evil drone strikes, economic inequality, misogyny,
xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other evils.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. allied with LBJ on the Voting Rights Act. Yet, Dr. King would later criticize
the Johnson administration in public for Johnson shortchanging the War on Poverty while spending
billions of dollars on the brutal, unjust Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a great speech
criticizing the Vietnam War in 1967 in New York City in the Riverside Church. Dr. King was a
vociferous opponent of the costly, unjust Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was also right to
say in August 31, 1967 in Chicago that capitalism was built on the backs of black slaves as capitalism
is highly exploitative and perpetrates injustices against the workers and the poor. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. discussed more about class issues. Dr. King was a great friend of the great, intelligent
Marxist historian Brother C.L.R. James. As early as 1966, Dr. King gave a great, accurate criticism of
capitalism in the following words to his staff:

We are now making demands that will cost the nation something. You cant talk about solving
the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You cant talk about
ending slums without first saying profit must be taking out of slums. Youre really tampering and
getting on dangerous round because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with the
captains of industryNow this means that we are treading in difficult waters, because it really
means that we are saying that something is wrongwith capitalismThere must be a better
distribution of wealth and maybe America must move towards a Democratic Socialism

With 11,000 blacks added to the voting rolls in Selma by March 1966, they voted for Baker in 1966,
turning Clark out of office. Sheriff Jim Clark would be convicted of drug smuggling and served time
in prison for his actions. Karma is nothing to be played with. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act
would be a gradual process in Alabama. In 1960, there were a total of 53,336 black voters
registered in the state of Alabama; three decades later, there were 537,285, a tenfold increase.

The film Selma, which was directed by the Sister Ava DuVernay, should inspire anyone to
investigate voting rights and issues of social justice matters in general. Ava DuVernay is a very
talented human being and I wish the best for her.
The Legislation's History
The history of the legislative process on how the Voting Rights Act existed is an interesting one. First,
the bill (called S.1564) was sent to the Senate by Senators Mike Mansfield (D-MT) and Everett Dirksen
(R-IL) on March 17, 1965. The bills language was heavily drafted by both members of Congress and
Attorney General Katzenbach. LBJ didnt want Southern Democrats to filibuster the legislation like
they did to other civil rights efforts, so he enlisted Dirksen to help gain Republican support for the
bill. Dirksen was hesitant in doing this, but he wanted to do it after the police violence against
innocent marchers in Selma on Bloody Sunday. The bill was nicknamed Dirksenbach bill because
Dirksen had a key role in helping Katzenbach to draft the bill. After Mansfield and Dirksen introduced
the bill, 64 additional Senators agreed to cosponsor it. The bill wanted a stronger federal
government role in preclearance (or allowing the U.S. Attorney General or other government
functions to assist voting procedures in states). The bill was first considered by the Senate Judiciary
Committee, whose chair, Senator James Eastland (D-MS), opposed the legislation with several other
Southern Senators on the committee. Eastland wanted to stop the bill, so he proposed the motion to
require the Judiciary Committee to report the bill out of committee by April 9, which the Senate
overwhelmingly passed. During the committees consideration of the bill, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-
MA) led an effort to amend the bill to prohibit poll taxes. The 24th Amendment banned poll taxes in
federal elections in 1964. The problem was that no such ban existed in state elections (many people
feared that the courts would strike down such a ban as unconstitutional). Delegations from Texas
and Arkansas opposed such a proposal. Kennedys amendment to ban poll taxes was passed by a 9-4

The Voting Rights Bill was reported but of committee on April 9 by a 12-4 vote without a
recommendation. On April 22, the full Senate debated on the bill. Dirksen spoke first on the bill's
behalf, saying that "legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the 15th Amendment ... is to
be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly
meaningful. Of course, Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) opposed the bill making the ludicrous
charge that it would lead to despotism and tyranny. Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) called the bill
unconstitutional since its deprived states of their right under Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution to
establish voter qualifications and because the bill's special provisions targeted only certain
jurisdictions. On May 6, Ervin offered an amendment to abolish the coverage formula's automatic
trigger and instead allow federal judges to appoint federal examiners to administer voter
registration. This amendment overwhelmingly failed, with 42 Democrats and 22 Republicans voting
against it. After lengthy debate, Ted Kennedy's amendment to prohibit poll taxes also failed 49-45.
However, the Senate agreed to include a provision authorizing the Attorney General to sue any
jurisdiction, covered or non-covered, to challenge its use of poll taxes. An amendment offered by
Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) to enfranchise English-illiterate citizens who had attained at least a
sixth-grade education in a non-English-speaking school also passed by 48-19. Southern legislators
offered a series of amendments to weaken the bill, all of which failed. On May 25, 1965, the Senate
voted for cloture 70-30. Cloture is a motion or process to bring the debate to a quick end. On May
26, 1965, the Senate passed the bill by a 77-19 vote (Democrats 47-16 and Republicans 30-2). The
Act was introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 6400. The debate on the bill happened
more slowly than on the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill on May 12. It
didnt file its report until June 1.

President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965 concerning the
Voting Rights Act. President Johnson will forever have a mixed legacy. He was a Democratic capitalist
President. He passed numerous progressive legislations that I have no problems with (like I agree with
the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Mass Transpiration Act, the Omnibus Poverty Act,
the Land Conservation Fund, the Fair Housing Act, the Clean Water Restoration Act, and other laws
that LBJ signed into law during the 1960s). Yet, he promoted a reactionary, imperialist foreign policy that
crippled much our resources, caused millions of human beings to die, and it revealed to many the open
brutality of the oligarchy. By January 20, 1969, the country witnessed Nixon being inaugurated as

The committee's ranking Republican, William McCulloch (R-OH), generally supported expanding
voting rights, but he opposed both the poll tax ban and the coverage formula, and he led opposition
to the bill in committee. The Speaker of the House John McCormack supported the bill and the poll
tax prohibition. The bill was then considered by the Rules Committee. Its chair was Howard W. Smith
(D-VA). He opposed the bill and delayed its consideration under June 24. Under pressure from the
bill's proponents, he allowed the bill to be released from committee a week later, and the full House
started debating the bill on July 6. McCulloch wanted to defeat the Voting Rights Act. So, he
introduced an alternative bill called H.R. 7896. It would have allowed the Attorney General to appoint
federal registrars after receiving 25 serious complaints of discrimination about a jurisdiction and
imposed a nationwide ban on literacy tests for persons who demonstrated having attained a sixth-
grade education. McCulloch's bill was co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (R-MI)
and supported by Southern Democrats as an alternative to the Voting Rights Act. The Johnson
administration viewed H.R. 7896 as a serious threat to passing the Voting Rights Act. However,
support for H.R. 7896 dissipated after William M. Tuck (D-VA) publicly said he preferred H.R. 7896
because the Voting Rights Act would legitimately ensure that African Americans could vote. His
statement alienated most supporters of H.R. 7896, and the bill failed on the House floor by a 171-
248 vote on July 9. Later that night, the House passed the Voting Rights Act by a 333-85 vote
(Democrats 221-61, Republicans 112-24).

The bill went into the conference committee after the House passed the bill. This was about other
chambers resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate
version had a provision that allowed the Attorney General to sue states that used poll taxes to
discriminate, while the House version outright banned poll taxes. Initially, the committee members
were stalemated. To help broker a compromise, Attorney General Katzenbach drafted legislative
language explicitly asserting that poll taxes were unconstitutional and instructed the Department of
Justice to sue the states that maintained poll taxes. To assuage concerns of liberal committee
members that this provision was not strong enough, Katzenbach enlisted the help of Martin Luther
King, Jr., who gave his support to the compromise. King's endorsement ended the stalemate, and on
July 29, the conference committee reported its version out of committee. The House approved this
conference report version of the bill on August 3 by a 328-74 vote (Democrats 217-54, Republicans
111-20), and the Senate passed it on August 4 by a 79-18 vote (Democrats 49-17, Republicans 30-1).
On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law with Rosa
Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders in attendance. The Voting
Rights Act caused an immediate help to African Americans in terms of voting rights. After the law
was enacted in 1965, there was an immediate decrease of racial discrimination in voting. The ending
of literacy tests and the assignments of federal examiners and observers allowed for high numbers of
racial minorities to register to vote. Nearly 250,000 African Americans registered to vote in 1965 and
one-third of whom were registered by federal examiners. In covered jurisdictions, less than one-third
(29.3%) of the African American population was registered in 1965; by 1967, this number increased
to more than half (52.1%), and a majority of African American residents became registered to vote in
9 of the 13 Southern states. Similar increases were seen in the number of African Americans elected
to office: between 1965 and 1985, African Americans elected as state legislators in the 11 former
Confederate states increased from 3 to 176. The number of African American elected officials
increased from 1,469 in 1970 to 4,912 in 1980.

By 2011, the number is about 10,500. Congress enacted the bilingual election requirements in 1975
and amended them in 1992. In 1973, the percent of Hispanics registered to vote was 34.9%; by 2006,
that amount nearly doubled. The number of Asian Americans registered to vote in 1996 increased
58% by 2006. The initial success of the law was designed to combat tactics which wanted to deny
minorities access to the polls. The Act has been used to challenge racial vote dilution. Starting in the
1970s, the Attorney General commonly raised Section 5 objections to voting changes that decreased
the effectiveness of racial minorities' votes, including discriminatory annexations, redistricting plans,
and election methods such as at-large election systems, runoff election requirements, and
prohibitions on bullet voting. By enfranchising racial minorities, the Act facilitated a political
realignment of the Democratic and Republican parties. Between 1890 and 1965, minority
disenfranchisement allowed conservative Southern Democrats to dominate Southern politics. After
Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Act into law, newly enfranchised racial minorities
began to vote for liberal Democratic candidates throughout the South, and Southern white
conservatives began to switch their party registration from Democrat to Republican en masse. So,
the Democratic Party became more liberal and the Republican Party became more conservative after
the mid 1960's. This increased competition among both parties. Later, the Republicans would use the
racist Southern Strategy in order to get votes while scapegoating people of color. We still have a
long way to go as extremists want to further erode our voting rights with voter ID laws, etc.
Remembering Sister Amelia Boynton
No words can describe the great contributions that Sister Amelia Boynton has done for society. She
contributed a great deal for the cause of human justice and social tranquility. Her work will forever
be remembered. During this time, many of our elders are passing away. We are in the Joshua
Generation. Our elders and our ancestors would want us to carry on the torch that many heroes
have done for years and centuries. She fought for voting rights and human rights in the South and
throughout the world. Her righteous work in Selma helped to cause the Voting Rights Act to be
signed into law by 1965. She, in her DCVL organization, sacrificed for the cause of freedom just like
SNCC and the SCLC worked in Selma too. Police brutality (as shown in Bloody Sunday. The Southern
aristocracy failed in trying to prevent the Civil and Voting Rights Acts to be passed) and violence
could never stop her. Racism didn't stop her and she was blessed. During this generation, we should
continue to fight for our rights since Voter ID laws (including a recent Supreme Court decision
gutting sections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) violate the principles of the Voting Rights Act.
In our generation, we face police terrorism and economic inequality.

So, we salute her service for humanity. We honor her memory. We also acknowledge the unsung
heroes of Selma and in other places that fought for human justice too. The civil rights movement
was a strong movement filled with courage, strength, and most importantly love. We love her as
she loved us. One thing that she would want us to do is to continue working in our communities, to
continue to support our families, and to work ceaselessly to advance the dignity of humanity. We
want health care, housing, and a clean environment available for humanity. Her legacy is a glorious
one and crowns upon crowns are upon her head now as the Most High is certainly happy about her
work. Her principle of believing in justice and freedom for all is a principle that we will forever
cherish in our hearts and in our souls.
RIP Sister Amelia Boynton Robinson.
The Fight for Voting Rights Continues Today
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibited any jurisdiction from putting in place voting
qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure [that] results in a denial
or abridgement of the right to vote. Section 5 required certain areasincluding all of the Deep
Southto get preclearance from the US Attorney General or the US District Court in Washington,
DC before altering voting requirements. We know that the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the
Voting Rights Act (via the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision). Today, many states in the South,
in the Midwest, etc. have passed voter ID laws (when its supporters deceive and claim it is about
claiming to prevent fraud when fraud is minuscule today in terms of voting in America now) which
restrict who can vote and where one can vote. These voter restriction laws are very bad. One of the
worse of such voter restriction laws is found in North Carolina. That is why the new Moral Monday
movement is fighting against the voter ID law in North Carolina. These voter suppression laws stop
Sunday voting, cut early voting days, stop same day registration, cut the number of polling centers
and stopping the use of student ID (which studies have found to negatively affect the poor, people
of color, and the elderly). Activists in North Carolina and throughout the nation are fighting back to
make sure that voting rights is made available for all. They are courageously opposing the voter
suppression laws in NC and throughout America today.
Without question, this is a despicable policy in Alabama (of shutting down DMVs and state parks), in
a state with a long history ironically involved in the fight for voting rights. Over 50 years ago,
Brothers and Sisters protested in Selma and all over Alabama to fight for voting rights. Many people
shed blood (in the Bloody Sunday incident where police had brutalized innocent, peaceful
protesters) and many people died (like Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo). The
Voting Rights Act was passed. Now, we have reactionaries restricting voting rights with Voter ID
laws and Alabama is closing down 31 offices in the state. We even have the Supreme Court gutting
parts of the Voting Rights Act. This will increase the burden where black people and the poor seek
to get drivers license. Driver licenses are key things used in fulfilling the voter ID requirement in
Alabama. Alabama has a Republican controlled legislature that refused to raise taxes or use other
alternatives in addressing its budget crisis. Some Republicans in Alabama want to shut down state
parks, etc. This policy will further disenfranchise Alabama citizens.

The reasonable policy of increasing voting rights ought to be established by expanding voting
requirements (without the usage of massive restrictions of voting requirements when vote fraud is
very minuscule in our generation). The state of Alabama itself estimated that 250,000 eligible voters
lacked the proper ID, but gave out only about 1,000 as of last April. In the 2014 midterm elections,
hundreds of voters were disenfranchised by the ID requirement, and election turnout was the
lowest it has been since the mid-1980s. So, voting rights is a real issue in America. The struggle is
not over by a long shot. That is why the Moral Mondays movement is found in North Carolina
where courageous human beings are opposing NC's strict Voter ID law. That is why people are
constantly fighting against other reactionary voter ID laws which limit voting times, limit voting
requirements, and it has other restrictions. Today, we live in an age of massive police brutality, the
growth of the military industrial complex, and the evil War on Drugs. We are all in favor of voting
rights and justice.
*We should remember about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that we are not finished yet. We
have a long way to go and we want any voter suppression laws to be gone nationwide. I will always
respect voting rights.

By Timothy

We Shall Overcome