From Emmett Till to Barack Obama

obama and civil rights freedom marchers selma montgomery
Flip Schulke / Corbis

Selma to Montgomery
In 1965, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference focused their attention on eliminating African-American disenfranchisement in Alabama. The city of Selma was selected as a starting point because only 350 of the city's blacks were registered to vote, out of a population of 15,000 eligible adults. The 54-mile march began initially on March 7, but when the marchers reached the far side of the city's Edmund Pettus Bridge (above) they were met by a blockade of state troopers and local lawmen. When the marchers refused to disperse, the troopers attacked the crowd with billy clubs and tear gas. Television coverage of the assault, which became known as "Bloody Sunday," drew national outrage. Three weeks later, accompanied by 1,800 federalized National Guardsmen, the marchers completed their journey. More importantly, their struggle made the nation aware of a discriminatory voter registration system and led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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