Civil Rights leader returns to vote in Selma

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

“It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gone come.”

– from “Change Gon’ Come by Sam Cooke


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Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, it is “the act of giving and getting equally.”

Yesterday, Rev. James Luther Bevel received a share of reciprocity in Selma 40 years after he first came to the city on a mission.

Bevel, 68, first came to Selma in 1965 working with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – the goal was to get the right to vote.

He initiated the idea for the Selma to Montgomery March and was the chief strategist for many of the moves made by the SCLC during the Civil Rights Movement.

For Bevel, today was cathartic.

“To say I was in Selma 40 years ago when only 300 [Black] people were registered and as a result of the struggle [for the right to vote] I can come here and vote today is wonderful.” said Bevel.

He is excited about what he calls a “renaissance” in Selma.

“They called Selma the little city that saved a nation during the Movement,” said Bevel “I can see Selma giving the profound leadership it provided in the 60’s again.”

In 1965, Bevel, Rev. James Orange, and Dr. Bernard Lafayette were pivotal in organizing in Selma and thereby mobilized the country behind the efforts that were going on in Alabama.

According to Bevel seeing the results of the work that was done here is most rewarding.

“People like Hank Sanders and James Perkins and even Jean Martin couldn’t have been in office in that time because of the climate,” said Bevel.

“The climate here is not totally gone, but it is not as [bad] as it would have been if it had been a violent movement.”

Bevel says that he sees many white citizens stepping outside of the bounds of race and that is promising.

Today, he is back in Selma with a new mission – education.

He is working with local organizations to develop a new school focused on developing students into “excellent learners”.

He says it is most important that we put the tools for success back into the hands or the young people.

Although Rev. James Bevel continues to work for justice and equality, yesterday he came full circle from where he was four decades ago and received equally to what he gave.