On this day in 1965, activists embarked on a march from Selma to Montgomery in response to the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson


Aided by Father James Robinson, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and John Lewis of the Voter Education Project, a crowd estimated by police at 5,000, march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama Saturday, March 8, 1975. The march commemorated the decade since the violent struggle for voting rights began in 1965 with “Bloody Sunday” at the bridge as police tried to stop a march to Montgomery. (AP Photo)
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On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 activists embarked on a 54-mile journey from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, the state capital. Their march was a response to the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been fatally shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while shielding his mother during a civil rights demonstration.

Upon reaching the Edmund Pettus Bridge spanning the Alabama River, the activists encountered a hostile line of state troopers and deputies armed with tear gas and batons. Despite orders to retreat, they refused.

In response, the officers attacked many of the protesters. This infamous event became known as “Bloody Sunday” and there were more marches. The Selma marches ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, which ensured every American’s right to register to vote.

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