Selma 1965 II
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2009
In 1965, protests against voting restrictions for blacks brought forces led by Martin Luther King, Jr. into conflict with white resisters in Selma, Alabama.
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Lead: In 1965, protests against voting restrictions for blacks brought forces led by Martin Luther King, Jr. into conflict with white resisters in Selma, Alabama.
Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: Martin Luther King has been called the best southern tactician since Robert E. Lee--and his strategy wasn't half bad either. Against hopeless odds he prevailed time and time again. He would select a city or town whose racism and discrimination was particularly egregious, organize black protest marches and build up the tension until the whites either negotiated or
turned violent. If the latter were the case, federal intervention usually followed.
Opposing King in Selma was a divided white community. Mayor Smitherman and City Police Chief Wilson Baker led a relatively moderate white faction which desired nonviolent police response and negotiation of their way to minimal compliance with Federal civil rights laws. Fortunately for King and the black community, the majority white sentiment was represented by Sheriff Jim Clark who was born in rural Coffee County. Clark was out to preserve white superiority and told his wife he would "not let the 'niggers' take over the whole state of Alabama." Baker could not control Clark and the burly sheriff began to attack protesters with billy clubs. Every time the campaign would begin to flag, Clark would get it going again by some new act of brutality.
By February 1st, with national reporters and television crews in town, King was arrested. Soon after his release, he announced a mass march from Selma to Montgomery on Sunday, March 7th. On that morning 525 marchers crested the Edmund Pettus Bridge across the Alabama River. There they confronted row upon row of Alabama state troopers. After a brief warning, the troopers attacked with tear gas and clubs. Clark led a mounted posse that ravaged the black sections of Selma with rubber tubing wrapped with barbed wire. Nearly a hundred protesters were injured on Bloody Sunday.
Next time: A march and a voting rights bill.
At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.