March 7th is the 50th anniversary of the first Selma-to-Montgomery March, also known as “Bloody Sunday.”
In February, 1965, a march in Perry County, Alabama, resulted in the shooting death of protester Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper.
Organizers planned a march to Montgomery as a nonviolent outlet for the outrage over Jackson’s death. The intention was to go the state capital to question Governor George Wallace about his involvement in the police response to the February march, and call attention to the continued violation of the civil rights of African Americans.
On March 7, a group of about 600 marchers headed out of Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. Soon after, police started shoving the marchers, eventually knocking them to the ground and beating them with nightsticks.
John Lewis, a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had his skull fractured in the melee. Sixteen other marchers were hospitalized.