Bloody Sunday' commemorated this weekend

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By: Elizabeth Smith

Bloody_Sunday1972.jpgThe 43rd anniversary of 'Bloody Sunday' and a re-enactment of the Selma to Montgomery March is being commemorated this year between March 6 and 10.

Known as the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, this 15th annual staging will be graced by the presence of guests like: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Cornel West, Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, C.T. Vivian, Al Sharpton and Faya Rose Sanders and Martin Luther King III amongst many others.

The theme of this year's jubilee is "One vote, One Mic, One Movement: From Selma to Jena and Beyond."

In 1965, the Edmund Pettus Bridge was the scene of an attack on hundreds of voting rights marchers by law enforcement officials on what was later called, 'Bloody Sunday.'

Prompted by the removal of Black males from voting rolls by Alabama's Constitution of 1901, Blacks in Alabama fought hard for voting rights; one of the most valuable rights of any citizen.

Blacks struggled for this enfranchisement in a variety of ways in the 1950s and 60s, including: NAACP's legal strategies via the 1957 Civil Rights Act; voter education projects in 1965; mass meetings and rallies in Black churches that were often met with police violence including the notable killing of Jimmy Lee Jackson in 1965; hundreds of African Americans lining up at registrar offices attempting to register to vote and hundreds of voting rights activists being beaten and jailed by police.

In their quest to complete the march from Selma to Montgomery that openly and loudly protested against and defied laws forbidding them a vote, Blacks were forced to make several attempts:

o 1st Attempt, March 7, "Bloody Sunday": Marchers trekked from Browns Chapel AMEZ to Edmund Pettus Bridge, but were viciously attacked by local police and state troopers.

o 2nd Attempt, March 9: Marchers trekked to Pettus Bridge, knelt, prayed, and then returned to Browns Chapel, but Rev. James Reeb dies when beaten by white vigilantes.

o 3rd Attempt, March 21: Marchers, with the protection of a federal court order and a Federalized National Guard, proceeded to the state Capitol to petition for voting rights.

o March 24: At "Stars for Freedom" rally near Montgomery, at City of Saint Jude, world-renowned entertainers performed inspirational show then joined the march the next day.

o March 25: Marchers arrived at state Capitol, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech; Viola Luizzo, a marcher, was killed by the Ku Klux Klan that night in Lowndes County.

Aftermath of the March:

o August 6, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

o November 1966: Lucius Amerson was elected sheriff of Macon County, Alabama, the first African American elected to this post since Reconstruction.

o In 1970 two black men were elected to the legislature—the first since Reconstruction.

o To this day, movements for democracy the world over claim Alabama's voting rights struggle as an inspiration and sing the movement's anthem, "We Shall Overcome." Rev. C.T. Vivian, Chair of the National Voting Rights Museum, says: "We must never forget the dedication, passion and courageousness that were paramount in the struggle of African-Americans to achieve the right to vote in this country. We must never forget the importance of Selma, Alabama in this country's Civil Rights narrative. This annual celebration, with its re-enactment of the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March, is a pilgrimage that every American should experience."

Past attendees of the Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee include: Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, lawyer Johnny Cochran, President Bill Clinton, Stephen King and many more.

For information on this year's four day weekend celebration that offers 21 events, go to