By Amelia Valery, Photo editor
On Sunday, March 5, President Joe Biden traveled to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the historic march from Selma to Montgomery to advocate for voting rights.
As marchers headed to the capitol in 1965, state troopers beat down civil rights marchers during their attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“On this bridge, blood was given to help redeem the soul of America,” Biden said.
President Biden stood on that very same bridge to address the crowd to make his point: voting rights are threatened to this day.
“Selma is reckoning, the right to vote,” Biden said. “To have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty. With it, anything’s possible, without it, without that right nothing is possible.”
The president stressed the importance of congress passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act – both are currently stalled.
The Freedom to Vote Act addresses voter registration and access while also establishing Election Day as a federal holiday.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act aims to strengthen and reinstate parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. John Lewis was among the marchers on Bloody Sunday, suffering a skull fracture. For the rest of his career, Lewis fought for voting and civil rights, making it his life work.
“No matter how hard some people try, we can’t just choose to learn what we want to know,” Biden said. “And everyone should know the truth of Selma.”
On March 7, 1965, a 600-person civil rights march ended in a display of violence. State troopers and sheriff’s deputies abused marchers with tear gas, billy clubs and bullwhips as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. These events became known as Bloody Sunday.
The group planned to march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state’s capitol. These marches were spurred by the shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson and led to a display to commemorate the church deacon while fighting for the right to vote.
Footage from the march and the attacks was seen across the nation, inciting demonstrations across 80 cities within days of the original march.
Two days after, March 9, Martin Luther King Jr. led a demonstration across the very same bridge with 2,000 marchers by his side.
On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke on the issue of voting reform, which the Selma marchers were long fighting for – the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed five months later.