It’s amazing to think we’re just 45 years removed from one of the most violent oppositions to desegregation in the history of the United States of America. It was before I was born, but as someone who loves and appreciates history, it feels like a part of me. Today, many conservatives make fun of community organizers (mostly to attack President Obama) and try to provoke fear of any talk of social justice (mostly to attack civil rights organizations and black churches and pastors). But, it was in fact community organization and the battle for social justice that proved to be cornerstones of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
When I think of community organization and social justice, I don’t think of convenient political weapons designed to attack a politician, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and so many others.
I think of people like Rep. John Lewis who was severely beaten as he and others marched for civil rights 45 years ago on what now is called “Bloody Sunday.”
Here is a Wikipedia description of Bloody Sunday:
“Bloody Sunday” was the name given to a march designed to bring together support for the Voting Rights Act. It ended in a blood bath as peaceful protesters were attacked by state troopers using (among other things) nightsticks and tear gas to crush the efforts of the marchers.
Wallace denounced the march as a threat to public safety and declared he would take all measures necessary to prevent this from happening. The first march was led by John Lewis of SNCC and the Reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC, followed by Bob Mants of SNCC and Albert Turner of SCLC. The protest went smoothly until the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and found a wall of state troopers waiting for them on the other side. Their commanding officer told the demonstrators to disband at once and go home. Williams tried to speak to the officer, but the man curtly informed him there was nothing to discuss. Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators. Many were knocked to the ground and beaten with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.
Brutal televised images of the attack, which presented people with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, roused support for the U.S. civil rights movement. Amelia Boynton was beaten and gassed nearly to death; her photo appeared on the front page of newspapers and news magazines around the world. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized, leading to the naming of the day “Bloody Sunday”.
There was a remembrance for the marchers and what they marched for around the 45th anniversary as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center:
On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march that galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act, a congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis laid a wreath at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the civil rights movement.
About 150 people took part in the solemn ceremony on March 6.
“We feel it’s fitting and appropriate to come here,” Lewis said after the ceremony. “This whole area is so holy and so sacred.” A veteran of the civil rights movement, the Georgia congressman was beaten by state troopers during the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.
We can never forget those sacrifices, and what it means still today.