The annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee will culminate today with a reenactment of the march that paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s important to recognize the symbolism of this reenactm

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 1, 2007

The purpose of today’s march is to illustrate gratefulness to those who went through tribulations to make a difference for future generations.

It all started on March 7, 1965, when more than 600 marchers gathered outside Brown Chapel and set out for Montgomery by way of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

They were young and old and desired to change the future.

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Some carried lunch boxes and bedrolls, others just the weight of suppression.

Sadly, what the marchers found was

a blockade of state troopers who stood on the other side of the bridge by order of then Gov. George Wallace.

The state troopers attacked the marchers as they attempted to cross the bridge with billy clubs and tear gas.

That day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a “symbolic” march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery.

On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery.

They walked 12 miles a day and slept in fields.

On March 25 the marchers reached the capitol and were 25,000 strong.

Less than five months after the monumental march, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Below is the actual speech President Johnson spoke to congress as he introduced the act.

“At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem. Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have the right to vote…Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes …

No law that we now have on the books … can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it … There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong – deadly wrong – to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States’ rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.”

– President Lyndon B. Johnson

courtesy of LBJ Library No. 276-10-64

Because of the relentless efforts the brave men and women showed on that day no American will ever be denied the right to vote based on the color of his or her own skin.

We should take time today to remember those who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. If it were not for their struggle Alabama would not be the same – America would not be the same.

Jesse Lindsey is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal.