When and where did it happen? • Between 1963 and 1965. The most pivotal day was March 7th, 1965, when Hosea Williams of the SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC led a march of 600 people to walk the 87 km from Selma to the Alabama state capital in Montgomery. Only six blocks into the march, however, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers and local law enforcement attacked the peaceful demonstrators with clubs, tear gas, rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire and bull whips and drove the marchers back into Selma. At least 16 people were hospitalised and many more were injured.
Who was involved? • It was led by the Boynton family (Amelia, Sam, and son Bruce), Rev. L.L. Anderson,J.L. Hosea Williams Chestnut, and Marie Foster, the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL)
Why was it important to the Black Civil Rights movement? • The national broadcast of the footage of lawmen attacking unresisting marchers seeking the right to vote provoked a national response, inspiring protests in Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, New Jersey, and other cities, and caught the attention of the White House. The marchers were able to obtain a court order permitting them to make the march without incident two weeks later. • President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6. • The Voting Rights Act, adopted initially in 1965 and extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, is generally considered the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress. The Act codifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment's permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or colour.
How does it link to the poetry of Maya Angelou? • The idea of keeping on going and rising, to fight for what you believe in can be linked to Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise’ – “you may trod me in the very dirt/ but still like dust, I’ll rise” • Angelou’s poem “Equality” also has direct links to protests and marches, much similar to those during Selma 1965 - “you declare you see me dimly, through a glass that will not shine, though I stand before you boldly, trim rank and marking time.”- Military allusions relate to the protestors marching together, united, ready to fight for the same cause. During the Selma incident alone, there were over 7 marches, with protesters beating out the same message - “While my drums beat out the message and the rhythms never change.” • Angelou’s poems often talk about strength through unity and using your voice as protest (‘I know why the caged bird sings’) “The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of the things unknown, but longed for”.StillI rise and Equality, talk about the struggles and successes of African Americans during this time.