Tuesday was March 7th, 2017. It was the anniversary of a very important day. On this day, 52 years ago (in 1965), a group of people went off to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama. These people wanted to peacefully protest the laws that prevented African Americans from being able to vote. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, however, they were unable to continue. Police had stationed themselves there, and were ready to attack. They beat the marchers with clubs and released toxic gas into the air. The marchers were forced to evacuate.
These courageous marchers refused to give up. On March 21st, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, who had not been at the original march, lead another march from Selma to Montgomery. This time, accompanied by soldiers sent by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the march was successful. The marchers went from Selma to Montgomery in 4 days. By the end of the march, 25,000 people had joined. Just 5 months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, granting African Americans the right to vote.
As we reflected on this day in class, we were awed at the bravery of the people who took part in the Civil Rights Movement. One 14 year old girl decided not to go to the march, but her friend told her, “If you walk away now, you’ll let your fears guide you and rule you forever.” She then went through with the march, but was beaten by the police. When the 2nd march occurred, however, she decided to take part in it. She is just one of the examples of the many inspiring people to have taken part in the Civil Rights Movement, even when they were putting themselves at risk.
Talking about Selma also caused our class to reflect on how far the United States has come in terms of racial justice. One student commented, “On that day in 1965, people were getting attacked by the police just because of the color of their skin. Today, just 52 years later, people of all races in the United States work together and go to school together. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.” Zoe Holmes, a sixth grade student also taking part in the discussion said, “I remember my grandmother showed me a photo of her marching with Dr. King. She was there at that time, making a difference.” We were all amazed at Zoe’s story. Her grandmother had contributed to making a big change. The story inspired us to make changes of our own. The success of the Civil Rights Movement is an inspiring example of how hard work and collaboration can make a big difference. The class discussion was not only about remembrance of our past, but also about hope for our future.