Today Advancement Project recognizes the anniversary of “Blood Sunday,” the first of the three attempted Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama marches in 1965. The first march held on March 7th ended in bloodshed when police officers severely beat, and sprayed tear gas on nonviolent marchers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The violence of “Bloody Sunday” shocked a nation but emboldened activists, fueling a movement that eventually led to President Lyndon B. Johnson pushing through legislation that would go on to become the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Those who sought to defeat, deter and dismantle the movement fueling the men and women who gathered peacefully on Bloody Sunday failed,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “They could beat their bodies. They even murdered those who stood in defiance of voter suppression. But they could not kill the movement. Violence and fear could not outweigh the power of righteous love and determination that existed in the hearts and minds of those who gathered on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that day. Their dream still lives on.”
“We can never thank these brave individuals enough, as well as the many others who gave their all as the marches to Montgomery continued,” said Rev. Edward A. Hailes, Jr., Advancement Project General Counsel and Managing Director. “We admire the determination of Congressman John Lewis, who as a young man was brutally beaten that day, and activist Amelia Boynton Robinson, now 102, who was nearly killed as police gassed and hit her. We honor the memories of a deacon named Jimmie Lee Jackson, whose death from being shot in an earlier protest inspired the first march, and Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb, who joined protestors in the second march and died of his wounds after being denied entry at the nearest hospital. We remember the courage and sacrifice of these and so many others who came together across racial lines, black and white, Asian and Latino, people of varying religious beliefs, including Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths, to achieve equality for all.”
“Advancement Project strives to live up to the heroes of Bloody Sunday in our work,” said Co-Director Penda D. Hair. “We can see the reflection of their efforts in the powerful movements of today. As Rev. Dr. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP said last month after the Moral March on Raleigh that drew more than 80,000 people: ‘Change did not come from D.C. down. It came from Selma up.’ We are still looking up to communities like Selma, to North Carolina’s Forward Together Moral Movement, to the Dream Defenders in Florida and groups like the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. From the ballot box to the schoolhouse, we will honor their work by fighting tirelessly to protect and expand the rights for which those on Bloody Sunday sacrificed so much to gain.”