tv Voting Rights March in Selma CSPAN May 20, 2018 12:05pm-12:26pm EDT
-- american history tv is joining spectrum partners to showcase the history of selma, alabama. to learn more about the cities tour, visit our cities to her banker we continue with a look at the history of someone. -- selma. ♪ >> many people think the selma to montgomery march sprung up overnight, and was a one-off idea. there had been a voting rights movement brewing here ends the 1930's. ♪ [video clip] >> here in selma, alabama, in many places throughout the south, african-americans were denied the right to vote not because it was the constitutional right, but because there were folks throughout the south in positions of power that did not
want these folks to have the right to vote. that way they could be considered second-class citizens. poll taxes and literacy tests were to methods used to deter african-americans the right to vote. poll taxes was a fixed price you had to pay per year. i make $60 a year. let's i i live here in dallas county in a were well -- rule -- and i make $60 a year. we may have rent that is $40 a year. $40 a year out of my entire $60 your income goes to the rent. then i'm going to have $20 in which i have to get close and some sorts of comfort for my kids. there aren't many black people that are going to have money left over to pay a poll tax. let's say on some whim i have an extra dollar and i go to the dallas county courthouse, and i
show up saying i'd like to register to vote. i would go up to the county registrar, i would have my poll tax ready. if mr. colonel is going to take my poll tax, he will administer a literacy test, which was another barrier to africans -- african-americans faced when trying to vote. the test could be, how many counties are there in alabama? he may ask me to name every probate judge in the county of alabama. -- in the county or entire state of alabama. now i will have to scramble to find the names of all of these probate judges in charge of enforcing the laws of these particular counties throughout the state. there was not any google and there was not any type of wikipedia that would tell me this in 1965, so it was difficult to do that. that was one form of literacy test. it could be in the form of a question, you could ask me how
many bubbles are in a bar of soap, or you could give me a political literary see -- literacy test that would be 68 minutes -- questions long. this could be done in a more formal setting. the might only have to answer 20 of those questions. in american might have to answer all 68. right now, we are standing at the dallas county courthouse. this is one of the most integral pieces of the voting rights movement. you have this place were marches were being led to almost every day during the summer and fall of 1963. the committee came to work here in selma, and they rallied the youth to come down and protest where their parents weren't necessarily joining in. there were marches continuously throughout that time, going from january, all the way up to sunday in march of 1965.
there were marches continuously throughout. on any giving day during the movement, if you have protesters coming in directing at the dallas county courthouse, most will line up this sidewalk here, down the side of the building. clarkght have sheriff jim standing at the top of the steps. if you see into where the door is, that is where sheriff clark would be standing. you would have protesters lined up to get into the voter registration office. you would have folks lined up and wrapped around the building freedom songs and protest songs singing and chants, anyone walking by my here a good -- ♪ i woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom i woke up this morning with my mind it was
set on freedom hallelujah, -- freedom. onoke up this morning saying hallelujah,lelujah, hallelujah. this is one of the movement churches and the main churches used during the voter rights movement to hold meetings and training sessions here at brown chapel, dr. king gave his first speech in the city on january 9, -- january 2,en [video clip] 1965. dr. king: the police commissioner in the city, and everyone in the white power structure in the city, must be
responsible. >> he let the folks here know a newhe movement now had voice. throughout the 1930's, the voters league had been the main organization working here in selma to achieve voting rights for african americans. they were the main people upholding voter registration education causes for blacks who were in the county and in the city. they worked throughout the 1930's, i didn't 40's, and 1950's in order to attack the problem of african-americans in selma not having the right to vote. in february 1963, a voice toative had the be for us in the area. places thatto
hadn't been touched. they were working with the young folks in some a to prepare them for the work of civil rights and to march and protest in civil rights. smith laid the foundation of people to come here and build off of in protest in in 1965. the interesting thing about tabernacle baptist, the church has two faces. it was built by a black architect in the 1920's. ordinances prevented african-americans from entering buildings on broad streets. church wasbernacle built, the architect pulled a trick on the city officials. there is an interest -- entrance at the side of the building, but the real interests is on a
different avenue. it is called the church with two faces. this is where they did their own nonviolence resistance training for those interested in protesting for the right to vote. they didn't work just out of tabernacle baptist. in 1963, they moved their operations over to first baptist church, the black first baptist church in selma, right down the street from where we are now. first baptist headquarters for , including one right before freedom day in october 1963, where dorothy height was the main attraction for that evening. she gave a lot of encouragement to those who would test at the dallas county courthouse. selma was a logical place for the voting rights movement to really have this push, because of the fact there was so many factors that there was a hotbed for this particular issue. you had a population that was mostly african-americans. there were only 240 registered black voters throughout the entire county.
there also was agitation, the proper type of agitation needed to make this movement successful. who is a sheriff here very belligerent, toward african-american protesters, towards those getting a cup of tea at the precise moment, and his name was sheriff jim clark. he provided the type of resistance such groups needed in order to make selma the safe haven for voting rights. it is said that dr. king actually brought three things when he came down to selma. he brought money from the sclc and their donors who were able to get a lot of people bailed out of jail, and motivation. when you have a big figure like dr. king coming into a small city like selma, he was already seen as someone who can lead the masses, speak eloquently and inspire people. he brought motivation with him, and was the inspiration for a lot of adults to get involved
with the movement. he also brought the media. the media is what put the nail in the coffin of the voting rights movement here. they were able to show even though these protesters were nonviolent and only practicing civil disobedience, they were still being mistreated because of sheriff clark's attitude toward them. [video clip] from have made our way brown church to the bridge. this is a movement that african-american protesters here in selma during the voter rights movement would have made three separate times. the first was what was known as bloody sunday. on march 7, 1965, protesters gathered right in the playground areas of a church, to be prepared to go all the way from selma to montgomery. how do they get the idea to have a march from some of all the way to montgomery? it was the direct action they
wanted to pay in response to the death of jimmy lee jackson a , 26-year-old veteran who lived in alabama. during a night march in 1865, he was actually shot by an alabama state trooper while trying to protect his mother and grandfather from getting assaulted. about eight days later, he died. the marchers wanted to do something that would honor jimmy lee jackson and they decided , taking his body all the way to the alabama state capital showed wallace how important voting rights was to them, it was the right thing to do. instead of taking his body all montgomery, they marched in his spirit. that was on march 7 of 1965. protesters left brown chapel in the afternoon and progressed from the church to alabama avenue, and then walked right out here on broad street to cross independence bridge.
-- cross the independent bridge. as they crested to the top of the bridge, those who led the march saw a sea of alabama state -- of a blue, and this was made of alabama state troopers and sheriff's deputies. citizens that had been deputized by the local sheriff here, jim clark. when they got to the top of the ridge they felt fear, but even , though they were a little bit scared, they continue to put one foot in front of the other and 100 yards past the edge of the march bridge before they were stopped by major on cloud, the head of the alabama state troopers for that day. as the marchers approached him, he said to them this is an unlawful assembly and they have two minutes to turn around and go back to your churches or your homes. john lewis said, "maybe have a word with the major? " the major responded, "there is no words to be had."
and he gave the order for the troopers to melee. this is now what is known as bloody sunday. alabama state troopers, the sheriff's deputies, and the deputized citizens rushed marchers right here on this bridge, beating them with nightsticks, billy clubs, even furniture wrapped in barbed wire. teargas canisters were going up -- off and they beat these marchers throughout the city and into the george washington aria, -- washington area where we just were. there were accounts of these officials throwing young women into baptismal pools at first baptist church. that was the first attempt. this significant was the fact that there were so many media cameras there capturing this moment. not only were there still cameras from a national news there filming. that tonight, images from bloody sunday actually appeared in the
middle of "trials at nuremberg." the entire country got to see what was happening on that day here in soma, alabama. after dr. king heard what was happening, he put out a call to clergy members across the country to come down and march on tuesday, march 9. he wanted these folks to come in and be the face of this particular march. the next morning, he got word there was an injunction. the injunction was placed by george wallace. the injection had gone to fred -- frank johnson in montgomery. he notified dr. king there was going to be an injunction against march and he was going to set a court date for march the 11th. that was two days after dr. king had promised these folks we are going to march on how does dr. march 9. king keep his word to all of these people, to march and protest for the right to vote for african-americans, but not violate a court injunction?
he got on the phone with some of the top people in washington, including the president and fbi representatives. they came up with the solution ofwould march to the spots bloody sunday, where the attacks began, and turned back around. this march became known as turnaround tuesday. 2000 folks gathered over at brown chapel church to turn right here on the water avenue. and they cut up the bridge right here. as they crested to the top of the bridge, that same sea of blue stared them in the face, alabama state troopers, and the sheriff's deputies from a dallas county. as they solve this sea of blue prayed, andnelt and then they turned around. the majority of the people on the march did not know that was
his intentions. only the very top people were privy to this information. you had about 2000 folks who assumed they were marching all the way to montgomery, but indeed they turned around. somewhere happy about the turning around because they didn't want another bloody sunday at that but some were , extremely disgruntled. that led to them to continue their fight for voting rights with montgomery student groups. after the march, there was the death of another young man named james reed, a youth minister from boston who came down to be a part of the march. that night, he was brutally beaten by white citizens here in selma. he died about two days later from his injuries. he is known as the second martyr
of the voting rights movement. his death inspired a lot of thought from white citizens across the country. that is also why the stay is known as turnaround tuesday, because white attitudes toward the black right to vote started to change. frank johnson, the district court judge began hearings on march 11. he heard from many civil rights leaders, jose williams, john lewis, others involved with the movement and from the opposition, jim clark, governor wallace, and others who were not fond of the march and said it would disrupt public safety. they said this march would be necessary for african-americans to obtain the right to vote and that there had been such an injustice done to these folks in the city of selma that a march of the scale was appropriate. that ruling was issued on march 17.
these folks only had four days to get everything together in order to make the entire trek from selma to montgomery. beginning on march 21, more than 3200 people gathered at a church to begin the march from selma to montgomery. they came down and the bloody sunday route, came down so than turned right on alabama avenue, up broad street and , across the independence bridge. they continued to march for five days and four nights. they made their way to a campsite, and continue to march all the way until they got to the alabama state capital. they continued to march all the way until they got to the alabama state capital on [video march 25, 1965. clip] dr. king they told us we : wouldn't get here.
those who said we wouldn't get here, over their dead bodies. all the world today knows we are here and we are standing in the state of alabama, saying we aren't going to let nobody turn. -- turn us around. >> a few months later the voting , rights act of 1965 was signed , ensuring that african-americans would get the right to vote. this march was the direct cause for african-americans have in their right to vote ensured by the federal government. this march and demonstrations for the realization of a desire of african-americans to have the right to vote. [video clip] ♪ dr. king: god bless you.
staff cities to her recently traveled to selma, alabama to earn -- learn more about its history. learn more about this on our tor at c-span.org/cities her. you are watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. >> next on american history tv, author gregory fontenot discusses his book, "the 1st infantry division and the u.s. army transformed: road to victory in desert storm, 1970 to 1991." colonel fontenot, a tank battalion commander during the 1991 gulf war focuses on the changes the division went through after the vietnam war and how those innovations helped them in gauge and defeat at least a dozen iraqi divisions during "operation desert storm." the kansas city public library posted --