All Jimmie Lee Jackson wanted was the right to vote.
Jackson, a deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, had tried to register to vote without success for four years. Jackson and 500 peaceful protesters had planned a peaceful walk from the church to the county jail and back, singing hymns. Jackson never made it back to the church. They were attacked by Alabama police and state troopers and beaten with clubs. Many protesters took refuge in a cafe behind the church. There, Jackson attempted to protect his mother from being beaten when he was shot twice in the abdomen by a trooper. He was unarmed. Injured badly, he was still able to run out of the cafe, followed by the troopers who continued to club him. He died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, on February 26, 1965. He was only 26 years old.
Jimmie Lee Jackson was the inspiration for the first Selma to Montgomery march that occurred a few days later, known as “Bloody Sunday.” On March 7, 1965, an estimated 525 to 600 civil rights marchers led by John Lewis were again met by state troopers and beaten with nightsticks, gassed, and trampled by mounted troopers. Immediately after "Bloody Sunday," Dr. Martin Luther King organized a second march on Tuesday, March 9, leading 2,500 marchers to a prayer. That night, three white ministers who had come to support the march were beaten by the Ku Klux Klan, killing one of the ministers who was refused treatment at the local hospital because he supported the march.
Because of the impact of the marches, President Johnson presented a bill to Congress, saying "What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome." The bill was the Voting Rights Act. When Dr. King heard this speech, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Finally, on this day, March 21, 1965, Dr. King attempted to complete the march from Selma, where Jimmy Lee Jackson died, to Montgomery Alabama. The march started with close to 8,000 people. By the time, Dr. King reached the Montgomery capitol on Thursday, March 25, nearly 25,000 people were with him. Most of the participants were black, but some were white and some were Asian and Latino. Spiritual leaders of multiple races religions and faith had marched abreast with Dr. King. King delivered the speech "How Long, Not Long." "The end we seek," King told the crowd, "is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. ... I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long."
The Voting Rights Act became law on Aug. 6. 1965.
Republished courtesy of Jon S. Randal: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=548167005228298&set=a.115630875148582.7129.100001050091122&type=1&theater