1965 Selma to Montgomery March Fast Facts


Here’s a look at the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama.

Throughout March of 1965, a group of demonstrators faced violence as they attempted to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand the right to vote for black people.

One of the pivotal days was March 7, when 17 people were hospitalized and dozens more injured by police, including future Congressman John Lewis who suffered a fractured skull. Since that time, March 7 has been known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The march has been reenacted many times on its anniversary. In 2015, President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the march by delivering a speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

It is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Selma to Montgomery.

February 1965 – Marches and demonstrations over voter registration prompt Alabama Governor George C. Wallace to ban nighttime demonstrations in Selma and Marion, Alabama.

February 18, 1965 – During a march in Marion, state troopers attack the demonstrators. State trooper James Bonard Fowler shoots and kills Jimmie Lee Jackson. Fowler was charged with murder in 2007 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2010.

March 7, 1965 – About 600 people begin a march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Lewis and Hosea Williams. Marchers demand an end to discrimination in voter registration. At the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state and local lawmen attack the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas, driving them back to Selma.

Read More: Selma priest remembers Bloody Sunday.

March 9, 1965 – Martin Luther King Jr. leads another march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The march is largely symbolic; as arranged previously, the crowd turns back at a barricade of state troopers. Demonstrations are held in cities across the United States to show solidarity with the Selma marchers.

March 9, 1965 – President Lyndon Johnson speaks out against the violence in Selma and urges both sides to respect the law.

March 9, 1965 – Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb, in Selma to join marchers, is attacked by a group of white men and beaten. He dies of his injuries two days later.

March 10, 1965 – The US Justice Department files suit in Montgomery, Alabama, asking for an order to prevent the state from punishing any person involved in a demonstration for civil rights.

March 17, 1965 – Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. rules in favor of the marchers. “The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups.”

March 18, 1965 – Governor Wallace goes before the state legislature to condemn Johnson’s ruling. He states that Alabama cannot provide the security measures needed, blames the federal government, and says he will call on the federal government for help.

March 19, 1965 – Wallace sends a telegram to President Johnson asking for help, saying that the state does not have enough troops and cannot bear the financial burden of calling up the Alabama National Guard.

March 20, 1965 – President Johnson issues an executive order federalizing the Alabama National Guard and authorizes whatever federal forces the Defense Secretary deems necessary.

March 21, 1965 – About 3,200 people march out of Selma for Montgomery under the protection of federal troops. They walk about 12 miles a day and sleep in fields at night.

March 25, 1965 – The marchers reach the state capitol in Montgomery. The number of marchers grows to about 25,000.

August 6, 1965 – President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

June 4, 2015 – After a state resolution to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge is not acted upon, Lewis and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Alabama), publish an article in the Selma Times-Journal in favor of keeping the name. “Keeping the name of the bridge is not an endorsement of the man who bares its name but rather an acknowledgment that the name of the bridge today is synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world.”

February 24, 2016 – The marchers receive a Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor.

June 3, 2021 – The National Trust for Historic Preservation includes the campsites used by the marchers in its annual list of the most endangered historic places in the United States.

Voting rights activists Clark Olsen, Joanne Bland and C.T. Vivian.

Beaten, bloodied and murdered – Selma 50 years later

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