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Friday, March 25, 2011

Selma March Changed U.S.

On This Day in history,March 25,1965,Civil rights activists arrived in Montgomery,after walking 54 miles to flight for equal voting rights. Nonviolence changes a Nation-it was 46 years years ago that the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.,led the Selma-to Montgomery Freedom March.The event went down in history as not only a turning point in the civil rights movement but also one of the most successful-acts of nonviolent protest.The vent remains relevant today because of it historical significance and because of the many parallets between the movement and toady's event in the Middle East,. As I watched the television footage of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square,make the decision to reduce the violence going on around them by sitting down in the street when word came that thugs from Mubarak,regime,were on the way to break up their really.I was reminded of how it felt in the spring of 1965,to be part of the Selma-to Montgomery,civil rights March,.What we are witnessing in Egypt,should seem strange to American,.For it is nothing less than Egypt's version of the kind of protest that permanently changed our way of life more than 45 years ago.The Selma march,that I was part of began on Sunday,March 21,and had as it final destination Alabama's Capital of Montgomery,.T he March was designed as a nonviolent protest to dramatize the obstacles=legal and illegal-that blacks faced in Selma, and throughout Alabama,when they tried to register to vote.In the racially divided Alabama,of those years,the march,which drew a crowd of 25,000 by the time it concluded with a speech by the Rev.Martin Luther King Jr.,had formidable opposition.Among its angriest foes was the state's Governor,George Wallace,who had come to the country's attention durning his 1963 inauguration when he declared,"Segregation now!Segregation tomorrow!Segregation forever!" President Lyndon Johnson,took Wallace,seriously.Knowing the danger the marchers faced,he federalized 1,800 member of the Alabama National Guard,to help keep the peace.In addition,he sent Deputy Attorney General Ramsey Clark,to Selma,to direct the Justice Department's effort to maintain law and order.but no civil rights demonstration was ever safe in the deep South,of the 1960's.Shortly after the Selma-to-Montgomery,march ended,Viola Liuzzo,a Detroit mother of five,was shot by members of the Ku Klux Klan,as she drove along a deserted stretch of route 80.She was the third death the Selma,protests produced.Before her murder,Jimmie Lee Jackson,a black Alabama pulpwood worker,who had made five unsuccessful tries to register to vote,was fatally shot by State Troopers,after a protest rally,and James Reeb,a Unitarian Minster from Boston,was beaten to death by a white mob. But then,as now,what struck me as special about the Selma March,was the calm that existed side by side with the apprehension.It was reassuring to have king at at the head of the march and to see the care his aide future United Nation Ambassador,Andrew Young, dressed the morning in bib overalls-took to get everyone in tight rows before we left Selma,but what,I think,ultimately gave the march crow its calm was the decision people in it had already made to remain nonviolent and accept the consequences of their actions,no matter how vulnerable that made them.It is a state of mind that for most of us doesn't last very long,But when such change happens, as it did at Selma,and at so many turning points in the civil rights movement,the sense of personal freedom that follows is immense.Threats don't matter,a Hosni Mubarak,like a George Wallace,loses the power to intimidate.

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