Violence in Selma -1965

Martin Luther King with Abraham Joshua Heschel

Selma, Alabama became the focus of the civil rights movement as activists worked to register Black voters. Demonstrators also organized a march from Selma to Birmingham to promote voting rights. "Bloody Sunday" occurred when state troopers attacked demonstrators.


Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the active attempts of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register the Black voters of Alabama no significant progress was made. One such place was Selma Alabama. This small southern town of 29,000 soon became the focal point of the Civil Rights movement. Of the 15,156 blacks in Dallas County, Alabama only 156 were registered to vote. On January 2, 1965, Reverend King visited Selma and gave a fiery speech in it he stated: “Today marks the beginning of a determined organized, mobilized campaign to get the right to vote everywhere in Alabama.”

On Monday, January 14th King returned to Selma, registered in the Hotel Albert, becoming the first black to do so. He then went on to lead to the courthouse to register to vote. Nothing happened the first day, but on the second 67 people were arrested. So it went day by day. Reverend King was arrested during one of the marches and his presence in jail attracted additional media attention to Selma.
On February 18 the SCLC leader James Orange was arrested in Perry County. That evening hundreds of blacks gathered and marched on the jail. On the way, they were attacked. Among the victims of the attacks were Jimmy Lee and his mother. Lee was beaten and then shot in the stomach, later dying in the hospital. At a large memorial service for Lee, a march from Selma to Montgomery was announced that would take place on March 7th. The marchers set off for Montgomery, but as they crossed the Pettus Bridge, they were attacked by troopers. As the New York Times reported the next day: "The first 10 or 20 Negroes were swept to the ground, screaming, arms and legs flying, and packs and bags went skittering across the grassy divider strip and onto the pavement on both sides."