Remembering the Montgomery Marches 
By: Alparslan Zora 
Student Writer for The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice, Volume 18

On Sunday March 8th, 2015, thousands of people gathered in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march of 1965. The story of “Bloody Sunday” begins on February 26, 1965, when Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being shot several days earlier by a state trooper at a peaceful march in Marion, Alabama. In response to the shooting, on March 7th, 1965, civil rights activists organized a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a distance of 50 miles. However, their march was cut short when state troopers and police attacked peaceful civil rights activists with batons and tear gas as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Because of the brutality, the day earned the name “Bloody Sunday.”

A day prior, on March 7, 2015, President Obama spoke to those gathered in commemoration of the march. He emphasized that civil rights work was not done yet. Bringing up the Ferguson shooting, Obama said that there was much work that still needed to be done. He further stated that the Voting Rights Act “stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor” referencing the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder.

The events of “Bloody Sunday” and the Montgomery Marchs led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. The recent historical drama, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, is the theatrical adaptation of the events of the Montgomery Marchs. The wide opening of the film was on January 9, 2015, just in time for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The movie received a lot of praise for its cinematography and acting performances but also for the message that it carried. There is no doubt that the film enabled hundreds of thousands of people to understand the devastating brutality and injustice suffered by the activists during the marches and on “Bloody Sunday”. In a time when people value multimedia, images, videos, and movies over print, films such as Selma can be instrumental in getting the message to wide audiences.

It is very unfortunate, however, that even today, fifty years after the senseless killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson by law enforcement that led to the Montgomery marches and “Bloody Sunday,” similar police killings still occur. Fresh on everyone’s mind is the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Even more recent is the death of Tony Robinson by Madison, Wisconsin police on the night of March 6, 2015.