History

Along the route a federal marshal stepped forward and read the injunction aloud. The marchers went on. As they went they saw no American flags. None. Only Confederate ones. They marched up and over the crest of the bridge. Before them a phalanx of 500 blue-helmeted Alabama state troopers blocked the highway. King halted. Mrs. [Emily Taft] Douglas [wife of then U.S. Senator Paul Douglas] and Mrs. [Lillian Crompton] Tobey [widow of a New Hampshire Senator] came forward on the arms of 6’4″ Farley Wheelwright; behind them came nuns and priests, rabbis, and ministers. They all knelt. They prayed. King rose–as he did so, the troopers parted. The way to Montgomery was open.

Mark D. Morrison-Reed, The Selma Awakening

selmaYesterday Farley and I read from the book quoted above, written by a retired Unitarian-Universalist minister. I haven’t seen the recently released movie Selma, yet am slightly aware of the controversy surrounding its snubbing by the American Academy of white men that enjoys patting itself on its back.  At the time the marches to Selma and Montgomery took place I lived at college in Virginia, radio-less, television-less, and having just returned after dropping out for a short time.  Do I remember whether I was aware of the marches?  The first two I think not, Montgomery I think yes.

Farley, however, at age 98 sees so many events from Selma in great detail. He had responded to Dr. King, Jr.’s request that ministers join the march to Montgomery, the first stage of which involved Selma and the crossing of the bridge named for a former Confederate general, U.S. Senator and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.

Three people died leading up to and during those days in Montgomery:  a black man, a white man and a white woman.

  • Jimmy Lee Jackson’s murder by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler precipitated Selma. A Baptist deacon, he was a civil rights activist in Marion, Alabama, Unarmed, on February 18, 1965, he was beaten by troopers and shot by Fowler while participating in a peaceful voting rights march in Marion.  He died several days later.
  • James Reeb joined the Selma marches in response to Dr. King’s request to clergy.  He and two other Unitarian Universalist ministers – all unarmed – were attacked by white men in Selma; Reeb was struck on the head by a baseball bat and died several days afterward.
  • After the Montgomery march, Viola Luozza, a Unitarian-Universalist and mother of five, shuttled marchers from Montgomery to Selma.  She was shot while driving alone on a return trip to Montgomery,

People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield)

Every Step

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