In early 1965, Alabama was the scene of intensive action by the Alabama Voting Rights Project, an ongoing program of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Dallas County Voters League. Their goal was the dismantling of the system suppressing African American voting through both legal and violent means in segregated Alabama (and throughout the South). On February 16, an unarmed young voting rights activist named Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot in the stomach by a state policeman while participating in a demonstration on behalf of yet another activist, James Orange, who was being held in jail in the city of Marion, Alabama. Jackson died a few days later. His death sparked a call

by Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for a major march from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery to confront Governor George Wallace. On what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, the first march attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on the route to Montgomery. The marchers were met by a wall of state police wielding long batons and tear gas. The police violently beat and forced back the marchers, including King, along with John Lewis and Amelia Boyton of SNCC, among many others. One thousand of the bloodied demonstrators were arrested. Two days later a second attempted march turned back instead of crossing the bridge.2 On the night following that aborted march, three white ministers, who had come to give their support, were attacked with clubs by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). One of them, Rev. James Reeb, a minister from Boston, died of his injuries soon afterward. Finally, the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, responding to the uncomfortable national and worldwide attention now focused on the suppression of the civil rights activists in Alabama, provided the protection of a force of two thousand US Army troops, a federalized Alabama National Guard unit of nineteen hundred, and federal marshals, all supported by a court order. With international and national media present, a third march on March 21 of about eight thousand people from around the country made it to Montgomery. This massive show of nationwide support from some unions, religious organizations, community groups, and celebrities, including Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez, produced some of the iconic images of the civil rights struggle.