tv Selma March 50th Anniversary CSPAN March 8, 2015 4:47am-7:49am EDT
invite you to get up out of your chairs and walk up to the next layer of stairs here on the lincoln memorial and we would like to get a group photo. if the opportunity to get your picture taken with -- and the opportunity to get your picture taken with presently can. on behalf of the park service and the lincoln group of the district of columbia, thank you so much for coming today. [applause]
treat us @cspanhistory. take us back 50 years ago today. what was some like? and what led up to the idea of the march to montgomery in the first place? reverend lafayette: well, it was a very extraordinary. extraordinary period in our history. because what we were doing was basically giving a voice to the people who are voiceless. and that is what all these
movements are about. helping to give people a voice who otherwise would not be heard. we feel that if the voices of the poor, the voices of the disenfranchised, the voices of the suffering people are heard other people will respond. so, selma, alabama is that example of where people around the country and around the world heard the voices crying out for people not being treated equally as human beings. now, the reason we were going to my comic alabama -- i want to make it there -- is because that is the state capital of alabama. we did not have much is there before from selma, but the reason we had this particular march is because of what happened to jackson in marion, alabama. your shot by a state trooper.
-- he was shot by a state trooper. earlier, we had people marching to the courthouse to attempt to register to vote. but the reason why the march was decided to go to montgomery, alabama -- it was actually jim bevel who asked jackson's grandfather would you be willing to march and continue to march. he said, yes. jim said he wanted to say something to wallace. and he wanted to take his time and put his thoughts together. and he wanted to walk, so he would have time. so he said he was going to walk. and then he said, do you think anybody would walk with me? i said, well, i don't know, i will walk with you. that night, he asked the audience. he said, i have to take a message to governor wallace in montgomery, alabama.
and i'm going to walk. and that he said, well, would anyone here in this church walk with me to echo the -- walk with me? the entire congregation stood up. he looked at me and said, we have ourselves a march. that was the genesis of the march to montgomery. and the march was about getting the government to recognize the fact that we did not have a right to vote. you could only register in one place. at that time, people were not allowed to vote for president of the united states. because if you couldn't get
registered in your own county, or your city, you couldn't participate in government. so, therefore, these people had no voice in the government. so the march was about giving people a voice. and we were absolutely right in our assumption and nonviolent. we take the position that you could only bring about significant change if you are able to win the sympathy, the active support of the majority. and the majority of the people who can make those decisions were in congress. and the supreme court. so, therefore, we had to make an appeal. so once they marched across that ridge -- bridge, we decided that what we were going to do was continue. because if someone tries to stifle your voice, the most important response you can have is to get louder. so that is why our decision,
after jackson, was to have a longer march and a larger march. the appeal to the public after bloody sunday, people started coming down from everywhere. churches and religions, they all, ok, joined in. see, we believe in the american people. and we believed if we speak out and they understand what we are saying, they understand our suffering. they understand the feeling we have that we are being denied. certain basic rights. and they were not only talking about rights of citizens, we are talking about rights as human beings. because we are human beings first. and that march was all about respecting humanity. respecting lives. yes, black lives, white lives ok, all human life.
if you recall, the large number of people who were killed in the selma movement were not blacks. they were whites. yes. and, therefore, people believed that this was the important thing about this march. >> today, the commemoration. 50 years ago today bloody sunday. going to take some calls for reverend yet -- lafayette, who is one of the leaders. edward in trenton, new jersey has been very patient on the line for a while. go ahead. caller: dr. lafayette, i have seen you come to trenton, new jersey. do you know of any younger generation activists stepping up to the plate? reverend lafayette: from trenton, new jersey?
do i know any young people that were activists? i don't know any in particular ones because i have not spent that much time there. i was to therefore visit. but there are some there, i am sure. but we have 40 different organizations. including those abroad. i am on a conference call every week with the leaders of these organizations of young people. and we know for fact that they are not going to allow this movement to stop. so the voice that we are talking about is the voices that were cut off by ropes when they were hanging people. they didn't want to hear their voices. these young people have picked up. we talk about trade on margin --
treyvon martin, they cut off his voice. in new york, i can't breathe, i can't breathe. he was actually breathing. that is why the tro cold continue to be applied because they did not want to hear the fact that the person cannot breathe. so i am excited about these young people. and i know that they are going to make this lasting movement. each of our movements are in the names of cities. the montgomery movement, birmingham movement, ok? selma movement. voters rights. now, it is going to be ferguson, missouri. that is our next movement. >> let's go back to the phones. rochelle in providence, rhode island. caller: yes.
>> go ahead. caller: dr. lafayette, do you see today's commemoration of the sum of march bloody sunday more of a celebration of past civil rights accomplishments? or should it or is it more of a protest against recent judicial compromises in the voting rights act? reverend lafayette: yes, the movement in selma today. this is a celebration. commemoration. but also a continuation. a continuation of the same movement that we have experienced all along. that movement will not stop. king made his last speech in memphis, tennessee. he said, i have been to the mountaintop, i have looked over and i have seen the promised land. i may not get there, but i believe that we come as a
people, we'll get to the promised land. so we look at the movement and the young people who are working to help her about that change that we are convinced that this is more than simply a protest did it is simply -- a protest. it is simply not complaining about the problems, but it is moving with a strategy determination, and continuation until we are able to make some basic changes. >> eugene is on the phone from stone mountain, georgia. go ahead eugene. caller: yes, i would like to ask reverend yet. does he think america has come far enough in its promises to -- to -- yes. i would like to ask reverend e at -- left it -- lafayette.
has america come far enough to renew its promises? and you see that we need to galvanize all the energy that has come to make sure that the young people should be included in this protest? >> how far have we come? reverend lafayette: we have come a long ways. don't make any mistake about it. we have come a long ways. there was a time when you look at what is behind me and you don't see two sidewalks. here in selma, alabama when i first came in 1962 to start the board of registration campaign there were two sidewalks. and that is white have such a wide sidewalk now because it was a lower sidewalk and an upper
sidewalk. and we knew who the lower sidewalk was four. right across the street, i went into a barber stop -- shop. they were all black barbers. i took a seat, thinking i could get a haircut trade and these black barbers turned the other way. one of them finally came over and said, this barbershop is for whites only. black barbers only cut white hair. i didn't believe it. when i look at the progress we've made, even in our economic development, we have a long way to go, but we do have some measures of success. not to mention, the president of the united states -- 50 years
ago, it could not have happened. 50 years later, i am amazed that we have a two-term president who is african-american. we have made an important statement as a country. we have to continue to work at this thing. if we don't continue to step forward, we will go backwards. because the world is moving. to stand still is to go back. we have to keep moving forward. that's what the movement is about. moving forward, recognizing those changes we still have to make. host: a commemoration today on the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday. call american history tv at --
reverend lafayette, you were in selma, alabama several years right or to the marches, the events that happened in march of 1965. tell us how you ended up in selma, alabama p we heard the story about the x on the map marking selma off. you went anyway. what is the story there? >> what happened is those of us from asheville had decided that since we had the sit in movement and we continued the freedom rides, once we started the freedom rides, we decided if we would give a full-time for a
couple of years, it would be like the peace corps, boots on the ground, so to speak. community service. we started to go to work on boat registration as part of our response ability for committee service. we went to the rural areas where you had a large number of blacks who were not registered to vote even though they might have had the majority of the population. i decided i would drop out of school for a couple of years. i came down to atlanta, georgia and decided i would become director -- james forman had decided he was going to give me directorship. but, when we went to get the directorship, he said i have an urgent need to get people out of
jail in louisiana. need to raise money. i went to detroit and chicago to raise money. i returned and he said "i'm sorry, there are no more directorships." what do you mean? we looked on the wall, the map and there was an x through selma. he said we are not sending anybody to selma. why not? he said, we already sent two teams of six workers to selma and they came back with the same conclusion. what was that? they decided nothing can happen in selma alabama because the white people were two main and the black people were too afraid. -- too mean. nothing will happen.
i began to remember, when did i first hear about selma? one of the first places -- first times i heard about selma was when we were on a freedom ride the bus was coming from montgomery alabama and was going to jackson mississippi. the national guard, alabama national guard were armed and they said we could not go through selma. because there was a mob of 2000 people working -- waiting at the bus station here in selma. the national guard did not want to go through selma. we bypassed selma on a decoy bus and we carried on to mississippi. that's what i remember first about selma.
when i took on this project, i said i'm curious how about we go to alabama? if you want to take a look, you can take a look at it and see what you think. i don't want to take a look at it. i will take it. if possible, that is my assignment. i took it on and i did extensive research on selma, alabama and the county before i went in. i needed to find out what was hoping kelly are about selma. -- what was so peculiar about selma. it was not the same as birmingham or montgomery. one of the characteristics was that selma was smaller and
everybody knew everybody. there was a close relationship. there were no homes or churches bombed in selma. they had mortgages on the church. if you bond the church -- you did not have that. the other thing that was very peculiar was that people had generations of family that were close to each other, black and white. the black families were not -- they developed these relationships. they went to each other's funerals. that was the only time they came
together, the church. people were very loyal. they had instilled so much fear into the black people until the black people themselves participated in helping other black people stay in their place. that was the attitude and the climate i found when i came to selma, alabama. host: he mentioned the student nonviolent coordinating committee. one of the voting rights activists in alabama and organizers of the selma to montgomery marches. today, the commemoration, 50 years later selma bloody sunday at the bridge are president obama will be speaking later today and we will have that for you live.
at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. let's take a few more calls. joyce is on the line in inglewood, california. what is your question? caller: my question for him is, after 50 years or 400 years why is it that we are citizens of this united states, pay taxes, do what we do and we still have a hard time voting? people can come from other countries and get drivers license. i don't understand that. >> what we experienced is a third generation syndrome. it's not enough to understand that there is a problem. it's important to understand
the genesis of the problem. what things have allowed the problem to exist? you can have a headache, but unless we understand the cause of the headache, we have not solved the problem. we have to find the cause and the care. the question is, how do we care this problem -- cure this problem? the third generation syndrome -- the first generation simply want to come and continue to have their religion, have their culture, have their dress code their food and music, all those characteristics. the second generation, they simply want to assimilate.
the third generation is that generation that goes back and looks at the roots. look at the origin, which child we came from, what was slavery like? what did people experience there and slavery? then, we have people -- we experienced that third generation wearing -- he keys and having afro's and changing names of our children. we wanted to go back to our roots. the white people in many cases want to go back to the roots of their cofounders. they remember when they were in charge of black folks.
they remember when black folks were not considered human beings. they also believed that black folks did not have souls because they were slaves. many of them are going back to those days when their own family members were actively involved in the ku klux klan. once we understand that, then we get to the root of the problem. we need a massive reeducation program across the board. it needs to be in our school systems and every institution and also needs to be in our media. we have to train our young people that this is not acceptable. we have to get people to learn
how to stand up and stand together. that is how we are able to accomplish these things we did in the movement in the 1960's. we stood together. went to jail together, die together. if they don't understand they are brothers and sisters -- we either have to become brothers and sisters in the together -- and live together or we live separately and die as fools. that educational part is extremely important. not just to sit down in different sections of the bus or restaurant. we have to have some meaningful dialogue. that's why this program is so important. host: we are live in selma, alabama today at the foot of the admin prentice bridge, the site of bloody sunday.
the first attempted march from selma to montgomery alabama. joining us today is reverend bernard lafayette, one of the voting rights activists and organizers in alabama. one of the organizers of this march. isaiah in fayetteville, georgia appeare. caller: what do you think the root of this evil has come from european people where they hate black people after we built this country on our back? i am a spiritual man myself. do you think god has sent us a prophet like you sent the children of israel to get out of this hell hole of north america?
>> i have to search my mind and be able to understand those whites who harbor that hate. why is it that they hate us? i know that we did not decide which race we were going to be born in. we did not decide which country, we did not decide the times and we will not decide the time we want to die. i could have been born white. i could have been born in rural georgia or alabama. i have to look into the soul and heart of the mind of these people who behave that way towards us. then i have to say, what does it
take to bring about changes. i have embraced nonviolence what martin luther king taught it we have to shortt. we have to show them how to love one another. we have to teach people to love one another. we have seen this kind of hatred. we have seen the results of it. we say to the silent majority of people who stand by and do nothing but when we see injustice towards one person it's a threat to all of us. we have to see ourselves as being affected by these kinds of conditions that exist. we have to stand up against that hatred. they have to see the hatred will
not succeed in a couples and their goals. -- accomplishing their goals. that's when we can make a difference. it's true that some people will die with hatred in their hearts. i have lived long enough to see some change. i have seen people who hated other folks and i see them turn around. we have to continue to be convinced that the promised land is going to come. and we have to do everything we can do with our lives to make it come soon and not later. host: another call for bernard lafayette from maria in washington, d.c. caller: thank you. why do you continue to perpetuate the randomness of racism when the challenge of blacks is the immorality in
music and videos, not teaching kids to respect the tradition of our lossaws, not insisting their kids use proper english or teaching them that giving back is important? i'm a teacher. i have an african-american history project. guess who did the project? the white kids and one black. why can't we teach these kids to love learning instead of perpetuating the randomness of racism and holding up signs? >> that's what i mean by education. it can only happen when people learn how to educate other people. and share that. education means not beating
something in some of his head or criticizing them or their actions. education means bringing the best out of others. the question has to be asked are we educating our young people? are we bringing the best out of them? one of the important things is people need to learn that they can live together and work together. if you find black children are not volunteering in community projects, ask the question, why? why they don't participate. don't stop there in terms of why. you have to begin to find something that is interesting and exciting that they can participate in.
one of the projects we started is we are going to have a birthday party for young people under 18. when they turn 18, we will celebrate. we will celebrate when they get their voter registration cards and they're going to have a once a month birthday party for all those who turned 18 that month. not only turn 18 and get a voter registration card, we will set up voter education projects so they can learn how to participate in government. it's not enough to just register to vote. they have to be able to know who was running for office and not just vote for somebody because they have the same family name. we are voting for people because of their commitment, the record and their proven and tried
efforts to bring about change. education is the key thing. host: reverend bernard lafayette joining us from selma, alabama today. president obama speaking there. we will hear from john lewis introducing the president. john lewis beaten on bloody sunday as the marchers attempted to go from selma to montgomery alabama. 50 years ago today, what was known as bloody sunday. local police stopped the marchers. there was another subsequent march called turnaround tuesday and then some days later, march 21, the actual march successfully completed over. you were part of the organization. tell us about that sequence. bloody sunday occurred.
what was turnaround tuesday? what was that about? >> i'm so glad you asked that question. there has been some criticism of martin luther king because he ledhost: from 1965 in montgomery alabama. a live look here in selma the ri. you have to have a strategy. what is a strategy? it is a plan of action that can accomplish the goals you are trying to reach. protest is simply complaining about the problem. strategy is helping to solve the problem. turnaround tuesday, once you have bloody sunday, martin luther king appeals to people all around the country to come and join so we can continue the
march to montgomery from selma. while people are in route, there was an injunction in federal court. judge johnson. whenever an injunction is issued , you have to wait until that court hearing to determine whether or not the courts are going to uphold that. therefore, as martin luther king continued this march across that bridge -- one of the reasons why they got across the bridge is because of the city of selma is on the other side of the bridge. you are in the county. therefore, you get the sheraton involved and you have state police involved.
-- the sheriff's involved. he decided he would not violate that federal injunction because the march was about getting the federal government to protect the march is because the state government was the ones attacking the people. therefore, when he turned around , he refused to violate the federal injunction. and he waited. we can always march later. you don't want to violate a federal injunction. the other strategy was this. you can never successfully defeat a revolution unless you split the army. you have to split the army of your opponents. the federal government could provide federal troops.
usually when federal troops come in, they come into backup the state troopers and the county police and city police and all the other law enforcement officials. we were appealing to the federal government to bring troops in to protect us from those who were in law enforcement. we could see this because we continued that march with the protection of federal troops all the way to the capital of alabama. host: another call. jillian in long beach, california. caller: hello, reverend bernard lafayette i'm interested in your strategy that you guys are enacting or that you should be in acting to make sure that the states with the voter id laws make sure that people get the
necessary documentation they need to get this voter id. what are you guys going to do? >> first of all, we must understand that our united states constitution does not provide a standard for people to be able to register to vote. it is decided by the state. we live in different states or we have different drivers licenses and tests. what we are same with our butter registration act is the federal government has the responsibility to make sure that whatever standard or whatever requirements the states have cannot be discriminatory against other people based on race or economic condition or whatever. it must be equally applied.
that is the issue, whether they are equally applied. we have an amendment to the constitution that changed the constitution. it was a regulation that the states have. what we have to do is make sure the voter rights act stays in place until the problem is solved. an act is temporary. that's why we have to vote every 10 years or five years to renew the voter rights act because the act is not a permanent part of the constitution. we have to make sure that people are not being discriminated against, women are not being discriminate against, people of color are not being this committed against.
-- being discriminated against. you hadeven the age difference in the states. we had to come together to say this is discriminatory to let people of one age and then in another state, another age. we must look carefully at the conditions that now exist as it relates to the criteria of foreboding and gerrymandering -- four votinr voting and gerrymandering and make sure the voting rights act has teeth and it. -- in it. if there is no enforcement, the act doesn't mean anything.
host: we are live in selma, alabama. what do you hope to hear from the president today when he speaks? >> i hope that the president will speak in a way to give confidence to our young people who have been involved in this struggle. they need to hear from the president that our office of the president is concerned about their condition and their plight. i want to hear him say he is going to use the power of his office to ensure that every one of us, black, white, young, old is going to get the best support from the federal government. i want the president to say that
this movement is not just about crossing a bridge and making a historic statement, but a statement for the future that not only will we cross this bridge, we are going to cross every bridge and every barrier and every obstacle that keeps us from reaching our goals. host: bernard lafayette was one of the leaders of the voting rights movement in alabama. the march was 50 years ago. he is the co-author of "in peace and freedom." thank you for joining us today on american history tv. >> my pleasure. host: john lewis one of the key organizers of the selma to montgomery voting rights march in 1965. we will be back to selma shortly. we will show you abc news coverage of his remarks and a rally at the alabama state capital in montgomery on march
25. >> i am delighted to present to you now, one of the finest young men i have had the privilege of knowing in my life. like myself, he is a product of alabama. he comes to the spotlight and has assumed leadership in this nation from just 50 miles away down in troy alabama. let us hear the leader of the courageous students of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, mr. john lewis. [applause] >> my fellow freedom fighters
as a native of troy, alabama just 50 miles from here, i am happy to be able to stand here and share this great moment in history. with men like martin luther king and other great men in this great march and struggle for freedom. this is the greatest and perhaps most significant demonstration in the history of the civil rights movement. just a few weeks ago governor wallace said there would be no march. he used our troops to be dust down on march 7. -- beat us down on march 7. you headacyou said you had a
constitutional right to march and you did march. the president of the united states made it clear to the american people and also made it crystal clear to the governor that the state of alabama is still a part of the union. we the negro people of alabama have been denied, and dehumanized by the vicious system of racial segregation and discrimination. thousands of you have gone to jail over and over again in marion and selma. today, you stand here as a living witness to the fact that
you are to be free and you are to be free here and now. the president of the united states made it clear that we will get a voting law based on one man, one vote. all the negro people of alabama will be able to register and vote. i know that many of you have tried. you are tired of being beaten, arrested and jailed simply because you want to be free. some of you have laid the tracks , picked the cotton, cook the food and nursed the babies for low pay or no pain at all. -- no pay at all we will stand
up to governor wallace that we are tired of being voiceless and tired of being invisible in the political arena. we want to participate in this government and we want to do that right here and now. [applause] within a system -- when any system denies a people the right to vote, it is not asking for a battle but demanding a war. we are involved in a nonviolent war. we are involved in a nonviolent revolution. we don't have guns. we don't have billy clubs. we don't have to guess. the only thing we have is our bodies. our tired feet. -- we don't have teargas.
our weary bodies will take us to victory right here in the state of alabama right in the heart of the -- as we lead this march today, we must go back to the county courthouse and attempt to register to vote. the state of alabama and the negro people of this state will never be the same. we are making it clear all over the world, not just in this state and in this nation, that our struggle is a struggle for freedom and liberation. matter not whether it's in selma or greenwood or mozambique or johannesburg -- the struggle is the same as a struggle for human
dignity. a lot of people across this country are saying that we are tired. too many people have been beaten , too many people have been shot and even killed. we have had enough of that. we have had a confrontation but now is the time for us to make some serious decisions. [applause] host: from 1965 in montgomery alabama. a live look here in selma the ri bridge -- the march attempting to cross this bridge 50 years ago today was met head-on by alabama state police and local police officers who stopped the
march. bloody sunday took place. the march did eventually occur later. you heard john lewis who spoke at the end of the march. that speech you just a was from abc news coverage of that day and of the events surrounding the selma to montgomery march. we will show you at the end of our live coverage today three plus hours of abc news coverage from 1965. coverage of bloody sunday. the site seen around the country. teargas, clubbing's of marchers. here we are 50 years later in
selma, live from selma, alabama. the president of the united states will be speaking this afternoon at about 2:00 eastern time. john lewis will be introducing him. yesterday, debbie wasserman schultz tweeted out a picture of herself and congressman lewis along with andrew goodman of the andrew goodman foundation gi. again, eight week from debbie wasserman schultz -- a tweet. coming up in 10 minutes, we expect to start hearing some of the speaking program in selma. we will bring that live. in the meantime, we would like to get your comments. you can join us at 202-748-8900.
if you live in the pacific time zone 202748 8901. patricia, you are on the air. caller: i signed a petition recently online for a change name -- this bridge was originally named after the alabama grand dragon of the kkk. this name change would help heal psychological wounds from injustices met on this bridge. thank you very much. host: thanks for the call. rodney in california. go ahead. caller: hello? host: you are on the air. caller: good morning.
i was curious, the great divide we still have been this nation with the police departments's misconduct etc., everyone seems to be worried about what barack obama will be speaking about this morning. what about the rest of our leaders? they have the time to host other prime minister's like netanyahu but they don't have time to show up in selma. how come they don't show up to help pull us together more? this would be great if they would show up and help destroy this great divide in our country. that's all i'm saying. they have time to host other folks. why not come and help us out here? host: the previous caller was referring to the admin pettis bridge -- edmund pettus bridge.
it was named after a former confederate brigadier general and the grand dragon of the alabama ku klux klan. an article from politico referring to what our last caller was talking about. gop leaders skip selma event. scores of u.s. lawmakers are converging in tiny selma alabama for a large gathering -- renee is next in florida. you are on the air. go ahead. caller: thank you, c-span. i love watching you guys. it is very educational. why can't the president or the
congress just an act aenact a law where the voters don't have to keep being renewed? the governors in all of the states need to reinstate the voting rights act for felons who have done their time and want to come out of prison and live a productive life. they should be able to vote when they are registered to vote. thank you very much. host: president lyndon johnson signed the voting rights act a few months after bloody sunday. the signing of the voting rights act taking place on august 6 1965. taking a few more phone calls while we wait for the speaking program to begin life in selma. ryan on the line from fredericksburg, virginia. caller: i want to make a comment
about -- i think it is great what's going on. it makes me proud to be an american. thank you. host: mark in pasadena, california. caller: hello there. thank you for taking my call. i want to make a comment -- i lived through this era. i was only 15 years old at the time but i remember it well. we have come quite a ways but there is still so much more to do, especially now that we have a republican-controlled congress intent on keeping down voting amongst the minority population in the young people and students. they will not accept a student but they will accept membership within the national rifle association.
that is clearly the demographic they are targeting, but to keep down student voting. because they vote more democratic. of course, the voter id to keep down the black voting. there are videos i saw on some shows where they should politicians bragging about how it has kept down the black voting by at least 5%. where is the justice department in all of this? we have a long ways to go. host: thanks for calling, mark. another picture from usa -- u.s. news. landmark bridge at center of obama visit.
we are live today in selma alabama. president obama will be speaking at the commemoration, the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday when voting rights marchers attempted to cross the bridge in your picture now. attempting a march from selma to montgomery alabama 50 years ago and were met head-on by state troopers and local police and were not able to make the march. it did eventually take place march 21 through the 25th. taking your calls while we wait for the speaking portion of the program to get underway. you will have live coverage of that in the president's remarks coming up at 2:00 p.m. eastern time. the numbers on your screen --
we go to utah, salt lake city, susan, you are on the air. caller: i would like to see the bridge's name changed to martin luther king bridge. host: jamaica, new york. go ahead. caller: thank you for taking my call. i'm so surprised that i got through. i wanted to call because i just turned 72 years old. i was part of all the changes in the 1960's. i am from the south, north carolina. the reason i wanted to make a statement is that charity begins at home. we need love right here.
we need to love the jewish people and everything -- we are not going to let anything happen to them. we want our congress people to participate in our emotional feelings here in the country. the black people who suffered so much. we want healing here and we would like for them to show more love and respect for our situation. particularly about this 50th anniversary. the march on the bridge. thank you so much. host: william in eureka california. go ahead. caller: good morning. i'm surprised i got on your dime 71 years old. i'm 71 years old. i was in sixth grade and my best
friend was a black girl. that would have made me 10, 11 12? i asked if she wanted to see my chickens at my dads and she said yes so she came home with me and played with the chickens and as we were leaving, my parents came home and my dad got out of the car and called her all kinds of bad words and i stood there shocked. i did not have a clue. she went home crying and i went in the house and my parents never said a word to me except my dad. he said don't you ever, blah blah blah. i have had to live with that. i drove a greyhound for 50
years. a lot of the drivers are black. some of them are my best friends. all i'm trying to say is that this stuff is inbred in people. i'm so ashamed of my own parents. thank you. host: talking about the coverage from selma, alabama from 50 years ago. we will be showing that to you after our live coverage today of this 50 year commemorative event with the president and other speakers in selma. three plus hours of abc news television coverage from 1965 in selma, alabama. other newspersons returning today as pbs news reporter bill pla returns to selma 50 years after covering the civil rights
marches. bill plante is returning to alabama for the weekends commemoration. he was a 27-year-old reporter in 1965 who bore witness to police tear gassing and beating demonstrators on the bridge in selma. he later interviewed martin luther king in a separate march. a number of dignitaries in selma today, as are dozens of members of the house and senate. we will hear from john lewis congressman from georgia who was part of the march. the organizer of the march, who was been on this day 50 years ago. he will introduce president obama this afternoon.
that program is set to get underway at 2:00 p.m. eastern. back to your phone calls comments about this commemoration and the event 50 years ago. kiki in new york. go ahead. caller: i have a remark. it is a shame that the bridge is not named for selma because it is a historic thing. it should go back to selma. that is the proper name. when i heard about selma, it is very historic. all those who are not there it's a shame. they have been suffering for so
many years. when i saw the documentary, i was crying so much. it is very, very sad. especially the congress. i guess they feel bad about themselves. that's why they are not there. host: stephen in west palm beach, florida. caller: thank you very much. i'm a 70-year-old who was most upset with the use of the congress by the israeli prime minister. i am ashamed that the leadership of the congress is not in selma for this truly historic american experience. they should be ashamed. host: jean in york, pennsylvania . what is on your mind? caller: i would like to say that
i am glad we are celebrating this historical event in our lives. i would like to say because of that, if we would have exercised our right to vote properly, we would not be experiencing some of the pitfalls we are having with congress and their representatives. -- our presented its. i hope this day will remind people that we as african americans have to treasure our right to vote and we need to be more involved with not only the presidential race but every form of government. we need to voice our opinion and let our vote count. host: a bit of history about selma, 50 miles west of montgomery. the city of selma incorporated back in the year 1820, was named
by a future vice president of the united states. selma was a main confederate military manufacturing center during the civil war. produced the confederate iron -- union forces captured and burn much of the city in 1865. the bridge built in 1940. robert, you are on the line with us on american history tv. caller: thank you so much for taking my call. i agree with the prior caller. i feel the gop, john boehner and his crew should certainly be here on this day. if we are going to have a foreign leader from israel, which we do support fully, at
least they could have showed the same respect for this day in selma. thank you for taking my call. host: tosha in macon, georgia. caller: thank you for accepting my call. the name on the bridge, they were saying change the name. that name that i see on the television screen is like a banner to me that we the people that crossed that bridge overcame the bridge name itself. that should be a monument to show that we overcame -- every time you look at that bridge coming you will think about the name anyway. changing the name to me is not a big deal.
changing the opinion of the people is the most important thing. host: darlene in newport news virginia. caller: thank you for taking my call and thank you for the supporters -- i have a question. it is quite disturbing to me -- i want to know why white america has such disdain for black america. we have been in this country together for eons. there is still no peace, no respect, not even for our president. i have heard public comments that would never be made it he were a white president -- if you were a white president. whatever grudge they have against black america -- we live together in this country in peace and love and respect.
there isn't any. just as our children are being publicly killed -- this is crazy. it is crazy to me. i pray to god that there be peace in north america and all over the world where there are problems like this. it doesn't make any sense. host: selma, 50 years later. we are live in selma, alabama on c-span3's american history tv. seeing the sights and sounds as we await the music prior to president obama who will be addressing the crowd at the foot of the edmund pettus bridge. we will have that for you live on c-span3, american history tv continues.
some of the historic coverage from abc news back in 1965 with three plus hours of coverage of the selma to montgomery march from abc. let's go back to the phones. lisa in louisiana. you are on american history tv. what is on your mind? caller: good afternoon. i was calling because i heard a teacher earlier talking about that black kids don't have respect. host: are you there? sounds like we have -- i apologize. your call was dropped. here are the sights and sounds in selma alabama as we wait for the program to begin. commemoration, 50 years later of bloody sunday. today's date, march 7 1965,
voting rights marchers attending to make a march from selma to the state capital in montgomery, alabama, met by state troopers and police. many were beaten, tear gas canisters were fired. the march came to an end. on tuesday, there was the famous on tuesday, there was the famous turnaround tuesday where they turned around and prayed, waiting for a federal injunction to take place. and then the successful march finally on march 20th through the 25th escorted by army troops and federalized alabama national guard from march 21 through the 25th, 1965. while we wait for the program to begin, more calls. barbara in bridgeport, connecticut. caller: hi, i'm just very
saddened. i was 16 years old. i'm 66 now. i think this is very sad that we are still going through this. i thought all of this would actually be behind us. i went through malcolm x., when he was assassinated. it was on television. i'm a member watching that life, his funeral. i can remember when kennedy got shot. i can remember the night that martin luther king got killed. and all of this stuff, i thought was behind us. and now, my grandchildren, it is sad to say that they have to go through this and i'm just very saddened that we are still biting -- fighting to vote? -- writing to vote. this is ridiculous. host: you obviously feel there
is not enough progress that has been made. what do you think are the next steps? caller: frankly, i just don't know what in the world it's going to take. what gives the white race the right that we have to fight to vote? who knows better than we are -- what makes them think we have to go through this marching and begging and pleading all over again? i will tell you what i actually do think. i think it's going to take an actual civil war between the black and the white, that's what i think, to stop this nonsense. we are going to have to have a war. you think isis is something, but we are having our own problems right here. we cannot solve the problems in other countries until we can solve our own problems right here. host: all right, thanks for the call. we will go back to philadelphia, pennsylvania, patrice, you're on the air. caller: thank you for taking my
call. i wanted to comment on the historical context of today and bring it to where we are now in america. a lot of people talk about how they are surprised that none of the gop is attending and how they are surprised by how some members of congress are behaving. it really shouldn't be much of a surprise, given hostility in america against blacks and given the fact that after obama was elected, all of hostilities started to resurface, similar to what happened in the 1960's. people should not be said that the gop is not there. right now, the gop, they are trying to hold onto the old good old days, according to them, what america was, when black people kind of state in their place. they are playing to that base. the fact that they are not in attendance should not be a surprise to people. i think what we need to focus on
is the overall picture and the fact that the world is changing. it's becoming more black and brown. more diverse. and it's maybe scaring some white people but america is a diverse nation and we will have to live -- learn how to live with each other. nothing is changing. these are moving forward. things are progressing. obama pretty much symbolizes that the world is becoming more diverse, more black and brown more day, more equal in regards to women's rights. we are not going to go back to the good old days. host: thanks for your call. on your screen, you have been watching some of the historic footage of the selma to montgomery, alabama march of 1965. today is the anniversary of bloody sunday in selma. we are live today for the commemoration of that event and we will hear from president obama shortly at about 2:00.
the speaking program with the president will get underway and we will have that here for you on american history tv. john lewis, who was part of the march, and now congressman john lewis, will be introducing the president. more of your calls, sheila on the line in norfolk, virginia. caller: i'm calling just to voice my opinion that the struggle does not just stop. it has always been placed in our hands. when our fathers and mothers sat with us and showed us the things that happen on the tv in the 1960's, i can remember my great-grandmother explaining all of this to me. i feel like we as society, we need to pick up with our grandchildren come our children, and let somebody know. just like the jews, they don't stop generic is about holocaust. -- don't stop teaching their kids about the holocaust. we need to teach our family, and extended family about black
history, and not just black history month to month but everything will day. and it continues until we all appreciate each other and learn to come together like they did for civil rights. that is just my opinion, one black woman, trying to raise her family properly. i challenge you, step up and be the leader that these people were for us in the 1960's. host: thank you. ted in penrose, colorado, what are your thoughts? caller: yes, i would like to see the president and some of the leaders take advantage of this generation -- this situation with all of them being together at that site, and call for everyone to get together again and get people off their couches and onto the street and work together. it is not just a thing of color. it is an economic problem. there are poor wife of latinos -- there are poor whites, or latinos, for indians -- who were
latinos, or indians, and we need to get together and have a renewal of the spirit that existed in 1960's. everyone has gotten too complacent. everyone is pretty much just happy to go about the day today and they will comment on stuff but when it gets -- comes to getting out and doing something about it, you know, if we would all vote, we would not have these tuitions. -- these situations. i just want everyone together as people, not necessarily as blacks or white or latinos but joined together as people who want to have a voice in the way this country is run. that is all i have to say. host: makes very much for calling. we are alive and elma, alabama -- we are live in selma, alabama, on the 50th anniversary of what came to be known as
bloody sunday. clayborne carson is the director of the martin luther king jr. research and education institute at stanford university and also author of "martin stream -- martin's dream. we invite you to call and ask questions of professor clayborne carson. we heard part of the speech that lyndon johnson made shortly after bloody sunday. he addressed congress on voting rights. what was lbj thinking on voting rights prior to event in selma? guest: he wanted voting rights no question. for him, it was a question of timing. that is what brought it there. martin is a king met with him and it was not the right time. the young people in the voting
rights campaign made sure it was time. they reminded johnson that they were setting the timetable, not the president. host: where were you on bloody sunday? and when you heard about bloody sunday, what was your reaction? guest: i was in los angeles going to ucla at the time. i remember the reaction myself, and many of the people i knew, was anger. we wanted to do something. we wanted to come and protest. instead, we decided to protest at the federal building in los angeles. we basically shut the federal building down for a short time in order to make it clear that the federal government had to react on behalf of the voting rights marches in selma. host: mark luther, where was he 50 years ago today? -- martin luther king, where was he 50 years ago today? with his role in the marches?
-- what was his role in the marches? guest: martin luther king decided to make it an issue after getting the nobel peace prize. the voting rights campaign was already underway. of course, what happened on bloody sunday was, martin luther king was in atlanta dealing with the affairs of his church, while a group of marchers left selma over the bridge, and of course that was the famous confrontation on the other side of the bridge. and martin luther king was somewhat embarrassed that he was not here, but he promised to come back and lead another march the following tuesday. host: tell us about that. that was turnaround tuesday. what was martin luther king's idea for turnaround tuesday after -- four tuesday? guest: first, he thought he
could lead a march, and after negotiations with the federal government they commit sin that if they waited until the following tuesday, they would be able to -- they convinced him that if they waited until the following tuesday, they would be able to march with the authority of the federal judge. he decided not to trust the troopers on tuesday, and that led him to make that decision to turn back and go back to selma. that upset a lot of people. that was one of king's crucial decisions, and it was very controversial. i remember in his own memoir, the autobiography of martin luther king, gathering together all of his autobiographical writings, he spends a lot of the chapter defending that action. because some people charge that
it was of a trail of the march to turn around. but i think he made a somewhat convinced -- that it was a betrayal of the march to drive around. but i made a somewhat convinced case -- convincing case. the next march ended up to be much more successful. we will just never know what happened on the tuesday march. host: professor clayborne carson is joining us on american history tv today. i would like to invite the viewers to join us. the numbers are on the screen. and you can join the conversation on facebook and twitter as well. let's go to the phone lines. maddie has been holding on from
macon, georgia. do you have a question or clayborne carson? caller: -- for clayborne carson? caller: actually, i don't. i just wanted to say the irony of bloody sunday on that bridge is inescapable. and i also want to say that although we try to cover it up, history cannot be erased, no matter whose history or no matter how ugly. i think my auntie lou said it best when she said history cannot be unlit, but a face -- if faced with courage, will not have to be lived again. host: thanks for the call . guest: this bridge is not famous for edmund pettis, but what happened here 50 years ago. i hope that a name change is in the works. host: let's go back to the calls
. louisiana, doc is joining us for clayborne carson. caller: good day to you and have a beautiful day out there. being a retired navy man of the 1960's and a vietnam veteran, my contribution to be a part of the human relations program for the navy was my commitment to help the program that martin luther king was a part of. i also want to make a statement that i want to commend the 71-year-old man from vallejo about the family that treated the young black girl with racism. it took a lot of strength and intestinal fortitude to say something like that about their family. have a good day down there. host: naked for the comment. -- thank you for the comment. clayborne carson joining us. johnny from decatur, alabama. go ahead. caller: i just want to ask you,
professor, do you think there is more that could begun instead of just once a year, once a month -- that could be done instead of just once a year, once a month? guest: well, i think the greatest commemoration we could stage would be to increase the number of voters. black americans and young americans, and a lot of americans who favor social change would vote in larger proportion. maybe bring it up to 80% or 90% as close to 100% as we could get. we could change the face of american politics. a lot of the politics is not decided by those who go invoke but those who stay home. host: how has selma changed in
the last 50 years? guest: it has changed a lot even from the first time i was here in the 1970's. the voting rights museum, the commemorations that have previously taken place i think we have almost reached the point and i don't know that we are there yet, that americans on the whole can take pride in these kinds of commemorations. it is not just a predominately black crowd. when i came here today i was driving down with another person and the traffic got so bad, i had to get out of the car and start walking. and when i did that, some students on a bus recognized me. i guess they had been studying one of my books. and they came out of the bus and
we started our own march. even today, and these were people of various races who were studying the voting rights movement in their classes and wanted to be here. and they were brought by some of their teachers from butler university -- butler university. i called the march from nowhere into selma to commemorate the selma to montgomery march. host: professor clayborne carson joining us live today in selma, alabama. this 50th anniversary of bloody sunday. our live coverage continuing here on american history tv on c-span3 and simulcast on c-span radio across the country on xm satellite radio. back to the calls jenny in south windsor, connecticut, go ahead for professor carson. caller: good afternoon. i just want to commend you.
and i'm greatly appreciate that you are having this on tv. i would like to be more active in this elevation as well. i was wondering -- in this celebration as well. what do i need to do to find out information of what is going on right now? guest: well, one of the things that any person can do is, instead of taking the next vacation going to europe or going to a national historic part -- site. just yesterday i was in atlanta at keansburg home -- king's birth home. come to montgomery and dexter avenue church working --where k ing preached.
come to birmingham to the civil rights museum there. come to the national civil rights museum. there are lots of ways. also just read books. there is a wealth of literature about this. john lewis and so many others have written their stories. to me, it is one of the great freedom movements in human history. and as i said before, the best way to commemorate it is to take an active role in determining the of this nation. in other words, be a citizen in the full sense of that word. vote, take an active part in changing america for the better. and i think, that more than even
commemorating an event, would honor king. host: so many people have connected to selma through the motion pictures, through the movie "selma." did the movie makers get it right? guest: i applaud the film makers. i applaud the fact that they made it. yes, i think there were some things that were not exactly historically accurate, but that happens in all hollywood movies. the controversy shouldn't distract us from seeing the film. i told my students though, that if you can get your history from going to a movie for two hours i would tell my students to leave class and go to the movies for two hours. if you want to get a deeper view of history, read about it. take a class in it.
right now, i'm developing an online class about martin luther king. within a few years, it will be possible for people throughout the world to take the kind of glad that you would have to come to stanford university to take. you can get access to this material wherever you are in the world. host: let's go back to the phone lines for professor clayborne cart -- clayborne carson. neil is on the line from colorado. caller: hello, professor. it's changed so much in the united states, k-12 and college education should not be so involved in the push related to this issue. do you think a graduation requirement should be a cultural proficiency, having the skills necessary to live among
different people? host: neil broke up on a there. -- broke up on us there. guest: what i got from it was what we need to do to educate people to help understand american history. because i don't see the answer being pictures or an elective course on civil rights history or something like that. it's fine if you want to do it but i think american history on the whole if it was top of it should be taught, every american would know the importance of what happened here. it was not be something -- it would not be something that requires specialized study. all of this should be part of our common understanding that americans have of the long route to create the principles that
were enunciated in the declaration of independence and make them real. if you look at the civil war you see that as a war, as lincoln said, to have a new birth of freedom in this country . and when king is talking at the microphone in washington and he says, it's now time for us to make real, the promise -- make real the promise of democracy. that is what is happening protecting the union. if people understand it this way, then they understand is this is essential knowledge for any american. host: we have been watching some of the arrivals in selma alabama as he have been talking with professor clayborne carson. we will hear from the president later on today. you saw a few moments ago on the screen that attorney general
eric holder. that reminds me to ask you about the significance of selma alabama to recent events in ferguson, missouri. your thoughts? guest: well, i think if king were here, he would be reminding us that his dream is unfinished, it is unrealized. it will take more struggle to bring about that understanding that human rights is a global issue, and it's an ongoing issue . we have achieved a great victory back in the 1960's. the fact that for the first time in human history most people on earth, most of humanity had basic citizenship rights. we should celebrate that. last summer, i went to zambia and they were salivating their independence. throughout the world, you have people who have never practiced.
it should ship -- practiced full citizenship. and in the decades after world war ii, that was a challenge. but now we face a different challenge. what are our rights as human beings? we should have rights that, as jefferson said in the declaration of independence -- he didn't say all americans are entitled to life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. he meant all of humanity. we have to take that ideal which of course, was not true especially in jefferson's time when there was slavery. but we have to make that a reality and it will take more decades of struggle. but i think ferguson, the events there, or us of that. and i applaud the young people
who have taken the incident, and all of the incidents, just like the one in wisconsin recently, all of these incidents have been lips on the media screen -- blips on the media screen. 99% of americans would have gone on the next day without giving it another thought. but because young people now don't allow them to do that combination is forced to confront the fact that we have not achieved these ideals. host: clayborne carson is joining us from the foot of the edmund pettus bridge. back to the phones. george in brooklyn, new york your question for professor carson. caller: professor carson, thank you for being on c-span3 and thanks to c-span for having this program.
as a professor in an institution as esteemed as stanford and being in a program where you are studying martin luther king, what do you think dr. king would be thinking today about the apathy of young people not involved in the political process or even simple civic duties in their community? and i speak to the high numbers of incarceration. is it because their parents are absent and not teaching in the homes these values? because we cannot continue like this. we can march a thousand marches. we could petition congress. the respect that we so need will not come to us just by simply marching. we have to do studies.
and at stanford, i would really suggest that you linked with other institutions to study the effect on the disenfranchisement of minorities. because we are heading for disaster. someone made mention before you came on about the only way we will control the result is to have a civil war with white people. and that is a pandora's box. if you open that box, who's going to close it back on long will it take to close? -- who is going to close it and how long will it take to close? host: professor? guest: it's a big question, and what you're getting at is the fundamental question. because to me, democracy is not a reality. it's an experiment. and we have to treat it that way.
one of the things that happen in the 1960's was they were voter registration -- voter education classes being taught. maybe we need citizenship education, or democracy education in order to get us out of this rut that we are in. i don't think we've made progress. i would agree with you that martin luther king would look forward -- because we achieved the voting rights act of 1964 and 1955, many people would say now we are full citizens and we can move ahead. but what we find is that simply open up the possibility. it was -- a piece of legislation doesn't change anything necessarily unless you use that as an opportunity to move forward.
and i think we realize that and i think many of the young people realize now that this is not the promise land. this is simply a step along the way and we still need some strong leadership that is going to get us there. we still need more people to get more educated about the response abilities we have. we need to have people who understand that now the problems are global rather than local. and i hope that as i mentioned before that people in my position, you know i teach at a very elite university and it costs many tens of thousands of dollars to go there. what we are hoping to do is take that kind of education and make it available to everyone within -- with an internet connection. but that will still be simply a possibility unless people use those resources. right now, you can go on the web and find information that was
only available to maybe a dozen scholars when i began editing my mr. king's papers 30 years ago. now we can use that to provide education opportunities to vast numbers throughout the world. host: gloria joining us in diamond bar, california. what is your question for professor clayborne carson. caller: hello, professor garson. i'm 80 years old and i'm african-american. my husband was military and we were stationed in england when all of this was going on. and if worse, what -- and of course when we came back to the country it was amazing to see what was happening. the buzz across the south and the reaction of most of the southerners that were there with us, they were so angry that the blacks were doing anything to help themselves. but i just want to pose this
question. all of the education needs to confront the strongest entity in this country, and that is, the church. the church is standing for israel, but the church should also be standing for the rights of this country, and sending in they have to realize -- standing in such a way that they have to realize -- they are so frightened and if we don't stand for israel, there is judgment of god. what about our country here? they should have ministers crossing this country, preaching that we need to change the very conscience of this nation toward one another, and until we begin to put the civil rights movement along with the church just as martin luther king did when he knelt and he prayed, we have to put together god with this.
because the conscience has to be changed. there is a fight here and the spiritual wickedness is in high places. we need god to do with this. so the civil rights movement cannot just be of talking cannot just be dealing with history. but with us together with god, with the strongest entity in this country, the church. guest: i think the way i would respond to that is, if martin luther king was here, he was the type of minister that was pushing the church of his day to be a picking -- be a beacon for social justice, for human rights . and not just for black americans, and not just americans, but people around the
world. that is what martin luther king's good for. -- what martin luther king stood for. i think the church has become complacent and has forgotten that message of the social gospel that king represented. and instead, we have sort of the gospel of prosperity. i think you are right in terms of emphasizing that this is the strongest institution that african-americans control. and if that institution is not on the side of social justice then we have a problem. host: professor clayborne carson live with us in selma, alabama. help us understand some of that history. the southern christian leadership conference, martin luther king, the others involved, the student nonviolent coordinating committee, how were those groups involved? how to they coordinate their
activities? and was there tension between them? guest: as some people know, i wrote a book about the student nonviolent coordinating committee. it was an organization is always pushing king. one of the misconceptions you might get from the film if you just look at it superficially about someselma, is that king is this sort of unchallenged leader . but the way in which the young people were challenging him they were not following dr. king. they thought he was the one following them because they were those -- they were the first to initiate the freedom rides and to initiate the voting rights campaign several years before king came here. it is important for us to understand that the movement was not just a single leader. it was a number of people who
were taking the initiative. one thing i like to point out is that rosa parks made it possible for martin luther king to emerge. martin luther king did not make it possible for rosa parks to emerge as she did. if she had not taken the reaction that she did in montgomery, martin luther king would never have had the platform that he had to become prominent as a leader during the 1950's. i hear people saying well, we need another martin luther king. we need a lot more rosa parks. we need a lot more people like the young students who initiated these events. these are the people that are also essential. host: we have twitter questions.
guest: i know there is a lot of controversy in reaction to the actions of the family concerning marlee the king's legacy. but i want to point out, there are more publications today of all of martin luther king's writing, far more than existed during his lifetime. and the work i'm doing could not have been done without the support of the family. you can have all kinds of questions about who profits from that, but i don't want there to be the misconception that it is stopping the information of martin luther king from getting out. that information is more available today than it has ever been in the past including when
my mr. king was alive. all you have to do is a google search and you will see what i'm saying is true. you can look and find all the books that have been written about martin luther king. there are more books of martin luther king's writings and ideas today than there were at the time of his death. host: professor clayborne carson, thanks for doing battle there with some of the music in the background and for staying with us today. clayborne carson is the director of the martin luther king jr. research and education institute at stanford, and the author shortly.
[applause] >> president obama, mrs. obama president bush, mrs. bush, congress and lewis, congress and sewall, mayor evans. it is an honor for me to be on the stage with you today, and to welcome all of these people to this great state of alabama. it's a personal honor for me to join in today's historic occasion on the edmund pettus bridge that has become a monument itself to the struggle for civil rights over the past 50 years. this bridge represents the strength and determination, the
loss and pain that have come to define the civil rights movement in america. it's an honor for me to stand here among you today on behalf of the state of alabama. 50 years ago, approximately 600 people marched across this very bridge on their way to montgomery to demand the right to vote. those marchers, many who were nameless, had a bold vision to change the culture of america. selma stood poised, center stage, as a series of historical events unfolded around us, as the fight for civil day in our nation's history as the route to montgomery was met with violence. we have all seen the images and heard the stories of those men and women who desired the right
to vote. this nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. it was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. in 1965 the rights of man were threatened because every man did not have the right to vote. we as a state and a nation are forever changed for having learned the lessons the bold leaders of 1965 taught us. leaders like dr. martin luther king and my good friend congressman lewis and so many of you who were involved in this movement. we need more men and women who are not afraid to stand up and work for what they believe in. alabama is a different state today than it was in between1965 and so is our nation. we have come a long way since the events of that bloody
sunday. selma changed america. selma changed the world. today we honor the memory, the work and sacrifice of those who saw a better vision for our state and our country. and it is extremely important for younger generations to know about the sacrifices that were made on this bridge and in the entire civil rights movement. but we choose to look beyond those ugly scars and focus on what alabama really is and what it can be. alabama is my sweet home. i was raised here and i have a great love and respect for all the people who call themselves bam alabamans. it is a place where economic opportunity abounds and there are good paying jobs and our
children can get a good education. children of all backgrounds. it is a place where neighbors love and care for one another and they work together on issues that are important to all of us. so, while we look back on a difficult chapter in alabama's history it is important that we write a new chapter together where opportunities exist for everyone regardless of race or religion or politics. as we reflect on the past 50 years, i think it is important to ask what will alabama look like like? what will our nation look like 50 years from now? that is up to our people. it is up to our leaders. it is up to those who have a bold vision that make america and alabama better and stronger than it was in 1965. as leaders, may we never lose
vision or the boldness to do great things no matter how hard the struggle is. for without vision the people may perish. 50 years ago the eyes of the world were on alabama. today, i invite you to look at alabama again. our state is a place where we can all call sweet home alabama. may god bless this great nation and may god bless there great state of alabama forever. thank you very much. >> good afternoon, america. welcome to my hometown of selma.
to president apdnd mrs. bush to president and mrs. obama, to all of you, it is indeed a great day to be in selma, alabama. as the daughter of selma i have crossed this bridge many times. many times i have felt the weight carried by the brave foot soldiers of the voting rights movement. many times i have thanked them for their courage that they displayed in the face of extreme hatred. i first began to understand the history of the edmond pettis bridge when i was five years old. my mom started to explain to me the events that took place on that bridge. it was hard for me to understand what it was like to drink from a separate water fountain because that was not the selma i knew. my selma was fully integrated.
my selma further clear-- nurtured me. my selma led me to believe a little black girl could achieve any of her dreams. i was encourage ed tod to dream my dreams because of the foot soldiers that crossed the edmond pettis bridge. any dared to confront a wall of alabama state troopers, unarrangement, undaunted and unafraid. we can not celebrate how far we have come without acknowledging however we need to still go. there is unfinished business unfinished business of the voting rights movement. it is person for all of us to know that the story of selma is a story of america. it is america's struggles. it tells us that ordinary americans can collectively work
to achieve extraordinary social change. the cause of the tpaotfoot soldiers marched for is still important today, and as we as americans we must become ever vigilant to protect the gains of the past and expand and promote their legacy. selma is now. every generation faces its own social and political struggles. there is still much work to be done. in fact, it frswas a person 105 years old who was my special guest at the state of the union, as many passed her in the hall they would say mrs. boynton who said get off my shoulders. there is plenty of work to do. so i say to you america there is
plant of work to do. may weal leave selma -- may we all leave selma inspired by the foot soldiers of continuing their legacy of fighting for quality and justice for all. i have the great honor of introducing somebody i didn't know how to address when i first came to congress. do i call him colleague? do i call him congressman lewis? do i dare call him john? he is a civil rights icon and a hreullittle black girl from selma stands in his shadow. it is because of you john, that so many of us get to walk the halls of congress, to get the sit in the oval office. it is because of you, john, and your bravery and the bravery of those foot soldiers. it is because of your bravery and the bravery of those foot soldiers that i get to be alabama's first african-american
congresswoman. [applause] congresswoman: to say thank you is not enough. we know we have unfinished business to do, john. and i promise we know there is much work to do. i present to you the civil rights icon john lewis. john lewis: thank uyou, my dear. thank uyou, my sterbgs -- sister, my colleague, for those kind words of introduction. my beloved brothers and sisters members of the american family
on this day, we as a nation have a great deal to be thankful for. jimmy lee jackson, jimmy lee jackson, whose death inspired the selma march along with so many others did not make it to see this day. but you and i are here. we can bear witness to the distance we have come and progress we have made in 50 years and we must use this moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish the work that still is left to be done. get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of america america. now i want to thank president
barack obama and mrs. obama, president bush press george bush and mrs. bush for being here today. i want to thank all the members of the cabinet and the administration who are here my colleagues in the congress, all the elected officials including the great give robert bentley and including the phaeurmayor of selma george evans and all other american people. i would like for all members of congress in our delegation just to stand. [applause] john lewis: thank you. i want to thank the group for bringing us together one more time and the core leaders of our
delegation senator tim scott senator sherry brown, and the representatives. thank you so much. it sis good to mrs. boynton of course our first contact when we came to sell ma in 1962. she was registering people to vote long before we arrived. i'm also glad it see the daughter of governor george wallace here peggy wallace kennedy. thank you for being here, peggy. i want to thank each and every one of you who marched across the bridge on bloody sunday. you didn't have to do it but you did it. thank you! i will tell you it is good to be
in selma one more time just one more time. people often ask me why do you come back? what purpose does it serve? we come to sell ma to be renew renewed. we come to be inspired. we come to be reminded that we must do the worbgk that we are called to do. on march 7, 1965 a few innocent children of god, some carrying small things, a plain purse or a backpack were inspired to walk 50 dangerous miles from selma to montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state of alabama. on that day on that day, 600
people marched into history, walking two by two down the sidewalk sidewalk. not interfering with trade and commerce. not entering with traffic. it was a kind of military discipline. we were so peaceful, so quiet no one saying a word. some of us were left bloody right here on this bridge. 17 of us were hospitalized that day. but we never became bitter or hostile. we kept believing that the truth we stood for would hold the
final point. this city on the banks of the bengal -- alabama river gave birth to a move that changed it nation forever. our country will never be the same because of what happened on this bridge. eight days after bloody sunday the president of the united states lin bane -- lyndon baines johnson delivered one of the most important speeches ever made on voting ratesights. he said the time for justice has come. i believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. he went on to say it is right in the eyes of man and god that it should come.
he said at times history an fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's search for freedom. he said so it was at lexington and concord, so it was at appomattox. so it was in selma, alabama. each of us must go back to our homes after this celebration and build on a legacy of the march of 1965. the selma movement exists today so we can all do something. so i say to you don't give up on saying that has great meaning. don't get lost in a sea of despair. stand up for what you believe. because in the final analysis we are one people, one family, the human family. we all live in the same house,
the american house. the world house. we are black, we are white, we are hispanic asian american, native american. but we are one people. thank you. [applause] john lewis: my beloved brothers and sisters it is a great honor for me to return to my home state of alabama to present to you not just to introduce to you but to present to uyou the president of the united states.
if someone had told me we would cross there bridge that one day i would be back here introducing the first african-american president i would have said you are crazy, you are out of your mind. you don't know what you are talking about. president barack obama. [applause] president obama: you know i love you back. it sis a rare honor in this life
to follow one of your heroes. and john lewis is one of my heroes. now, i have to imagine that when a younger john lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to brown chapel heroics were not on his mind. a day like this was not on his mind. young folks with bed rolls and backpacks were milling about. veterans of the movement, trained new colorado com -- new
colorado comers in that. describe what tear gas does to the body for giving information to contact their loved ones. the air was thick with doubt and anticipation and fear. and they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung. no matter what may be the test god will take care of you. lean weary one upon his breast, god will take care of you. and then his nap sack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush and a book on government, all you need for a night behind bars john lewis led them out of the
church on a mission to change america america. president and mrs. bush, governor bentley, mayor evans congresswoman sewell reverend strong, members of congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends fellow americans americans, as john noted there are places and moments in america where this nation's destiny has been decided. many are sites of war. concord and lexington. appomattox. gettysburg. others are sites that symbolize the daring of america's character. independence hall and seneca falls.
kitty hawk and cape canaveral. selma is such a place. one afternoon 50 years ago so much of our turbulent history. the state of slavery and anguish of civil war. the yoke of segregation and tyranny of jim crow. the death of four little girls in birmingham and the dream of a baptist preacher. all that history met on this bridge. it was not a clash of armies but a clash of wills. a contest to determine the true meaning of america. and because of men and women like john lewis joseph flowers,
jose williams, amelia boynton diane nash, ralph abernathy andrew young fred shuttlesworth. dr. plant martin -- dr. martin luther king jr. the idea of a just america and fair america and inclusive america and generous america that idea ultimately triumphed. as is true across the landscape of american history we can not examine this moment in isolation. the march on selma was part of a broad are campaign that spanned generations generations. the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes. we gather here to celebrate
them. we gather here to honor the courage of ordinary americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chasening rods, tear gas and the trampling hoof and despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay truth to their north star and keep marching toward justice. they did a scripture instructed for joy and hope, be patient in tribulation. be constant in prayer. in the days to come they went back again and again. when the trumpet call sounded for more to join the people came. black and white. young and old. christian and jew. waving the american flag singing the same anthems full of faith
and hope. a white newsman, bill plant, who covered the marches then and is with us today quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of singing. to those that marched those gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet. in time their chorus would well up and reach president johnson. and he would send them protection and speak to the nation echoing their call for america and the world to hear. we shall overcome. what enormous faith these men and women had! faith in god, but also faith in
america america. the americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing but they gave courage to millions. they held no elected office but they led the nation. they marched as americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities. but they didn't seek special treatment, just the equal treatment. promised to them almost a century before. what they did hear will reverberate through the ages. not because the change they won was preordained. not because their victory was complete complete. but because they proved that non
nonviolent change is possible. that love and hope can conquer hate hate. as we kphrepl rate their a-- commemorate their achievement we are well served to remember at the time of the marches many in power condemned rather than praised them. back then they were called communists or half breeds or outside agitators. sexual and moral degenerates and worse. they were called everything but the name their parents gave them. their faith was questioned. their lives were threatened. their patriotism challenged. and yet what could be more american than what happened in this place? [applause] president obama: what could more
profound profoundly vindicate the idea of america than plain and humble people unsung, the down trodden the dreamers not of high stations not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many coming together to shape their country's course. what greater expression of faith in the american experiment than this? what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that america is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical and each successive generation can look upon our impression perfection -- imperfections and make it nation to more closely align with our highest ideals. that is why selma is not some outlier in the american
experience. that is why it is not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance. it is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents. we the paoepleople, in order to form a more perfect union we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. these are not just words. they are a living thing a call to action, a road map for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny. for founders like franklin and jeff for leaders like lincoln and f.d.r., the success of our experiment in self-governance rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work. and that is what we celebrate here in selma.
that is what this movement was all about. one leg in our long journey toward freedom. american instinct that led the gunman and women to bid up the torch and cross this bridge, that is the same instinct that joe's revolution of her tyranny. the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust this -- unjust status quo. the idea held by generations of citizens who believe that america is a constant work in progress, who believe that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or
avoiding uncomfortable truths it requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo. that is america. [applause] that is what makes us unique. that is what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. young people behind the iron curtain what is he selma and eventually tear down that wall. young people would hear bobby kennedy talking about ripples of hope and eventually banish easterners of apartheid. young people in burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. they saw what john lewis had done. this generation of young people can draw strength from this place where the powerless to
change the world's greatest tower and -- power and push their leaders to expand the battery -- boundary of freedom. they saw that idea made real here in selma, alabama. they saw it manifest itself here in america. because of campaigns like this, the voting rights act was passed. political and economic and social barriers came down and the change in these men and women brought is visible here today in the presence of african americans who run boardrooms, served in elected office from the congressional black caucus all the way to the oval office. [applause] because of what they did, the doors of opportunity's long open and not just for every american. women marched, latinos marched,
asian-americans, gay americans, americans with disabilities, they all came through those doors. [applause] their endeavors gave the entire south the chance to rise against by transcending the past. what a glorious thing, dr. king might say. and what a solemn debt we o we. which leads us to ask, how might we repay that debt? first and foremost, we have to recognize that one day of commemoration, no matter how special is nowt enough. if the selma taught us anything, it is that our work is never
done. the american experiment in self-government gives purpose to each generation. selma teaches us that action requires that we shed our cynicism. when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair. just this week i was asked whether i thought whether the department of justices ferguson report shows with respect to race, little has changed in this country. i understood the question. the report narrative was sadly familiar. it evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that its bond the civil rights movement -- that spawned the civil rights movement. but i reject the notion that nothing changed.
this is no longer ascension by law or by custom and before the civil rights movement, it surely was. [applause] we do it is service to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable. that racial division is inherent in america. if you think nothing has changed in the past 50 years ask someone who lived through the selma or chicago or los angeles of the 1950's. asked the female ceo who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing has changed. as her gay friend of his is easier to be out in american now than it was 30 years ago. to deny this progress, this hard-won progress, our progress would be to rob us of our own agency, our capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make america better.
of course, mr mistake is these are just -- a more common mistake is the suggestion ferguson is an isolated incident that racism is banished, the work that drew men and women to selma is now complete and whatever racial tensions that remain are the consequences of those wanting to play the race card. we don't need the report to know that is not true. we just need to open our eyes and ears and hearts to know this nations racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. we know the market is not yet over. we know the race is not yet won. we know reaching that destination requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth.
we are capable of bearing a great burden. james baldwin once wrote. once we discover that the burden is reality and a live where reality is, there is nothing america cannot handle if we look squarely at the problem. this is work for all americans not just some. not just whites, not just blacks. if we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, all of us are called to possess a moral imagination. all of us need to feel the fierce urgency of now that change depends on our action our attitudes, the things we teach our children. if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes
seem, laws can be passed. consciences can be stirred. consensus can be built. with such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some. we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on, the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect it. citizens in ferguson, new york, cleveland, just what the same thing and people here marched for 50 years ago, the protection of the law. [applause] together, we can address under sentencing and overcrowded prisons and the stunted circumstances that rob to many boys of the chance to become men and the nation of too many men who could be good dads and good workers and good neighbors. [applause]
with effort, we can rollback poverty at the roadblocks to opportunity. americans don't accept a free ride for anybody. nor do we believe in equality of outcomes but we do expect equal opportunity and if we really mean it, if we're not just given lip service, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, we can make sure every child gets an education the double to this -- suitable to this new century. one that expands imagination and gives children the skills they need. we can make sure every person willing to work as the dignity of a job and a fair wage and a real voice and sturdier rungs on the ladder to the middle class. and with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge and
that is the right to vote. [applause] right now, in 2015, 50 years after selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. as we speak, more such laws are being proposed. meanwhile, the voting rights act , the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the project of so much sacrifice in the face of want. the voting rights stance weekend. it is good your subject to political ranking. how can that be? the voting rights act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of republican and democratic efforts. [applause]
president reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. president george w. bush side its renewal, 100 members of congress have come here today to honor people who are willing to die for the right to protect it. if we want to honor this day, let that 100 go back to washington and gather 400 more and together, planned to make it their mission to restore that law this year. that is how we honor those on this bridge. [applause] of course, our democracy is not the task of congress alone. or the courts alone. or even the president alone. if every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we would still have in america one
of the lowest voting rate among free peoples. 50 years go, registering to vote here in selma and much of the south meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap, risking or dignity and sometimes your life. what is our excuse today for not voting? how do we so casually discard the right for which so many thought? -- fought? how do we give away our power, our voice in shaping america's future? why reported to someone else when we could take the time to go to the polling place? we give away our power. so much has changed in 50 years.
we have endured war and we fashioned piece. -- peace. we have seen technological wonders. we take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined. but what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship. that willingness of a 26-year-old begin or unitarian minister or a mother of five to decide they love this country so much that they would risk everything to realize its promise. that is what it means to love america. that is what it means to believe in america. that is what it means when we say america is exceptional. for we were born a change. we broke the old aristocracies declaring ourselves not by
bloodlines but endowed by our creator with certain a new n unintelligible -- unalienable rights. that is why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction. we know our efforts matter. america is what we make of it. look at our history. we are lewis and clarke. we are pioneers who braved them familiar followed by a stampede of farmers and miners and entrepreneurs. that is our spirit. that is who we are. we are sojourner truth. women who could do as much as any man and then some. we're susan b anthony shut the system until the lot resulted that truth. that is our character.
we are immigrants stone away on ships to reach these shores, the hubble masses -- huddled masses, holocaust survivors, the lost boys of sudan. we are the hopefuls drivers across -- strivers because we want our kids to have a better life. we of the slaves who built the white house and the economy of the south. the cowboys who opened up the west, the countless laborers who laid rail and raised skyscrapers and organized for workers rights. we are the freshfaced gis who fought to liberate a continent and we are the tuskegee airmen and the japanese-americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. we are the firefighters who
rushed into the buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in afghanistan and iraq. we are the gay americans whose blood ran in the streets of san francisco and new york just the way it ran down the stretch. we are storytellers, writers poets, artists who have bore unfairness and despise' and give voice to the voiceless. we as inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country and hip-hop and rock and role and our very own sound with all of the reckless joy of freedom. we are jackie robinson, enduring scorn and pitchers coming straight to his head and stealing home anyway. we are the people like stan hughes wrote of -- langston
hughes wrote of. we are the people emerson wrote of whom for truth and honor's sake stand fast and suffer long nor never tired so long as we can see far enough. that is what america is. not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more american than the others. [applause] we respect the path but we don't pine for the past. we don't fear the future. we grab for it. america is not some fragile thing. we are large, containing multitudes. we are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.
that is why someone like john lewis at 25 could lead a march. that is what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. you are america. unconstrained by habit and convention, unencumbered by what is because you are ready to seize what ought to be. for everywhere in this country there are first steps to be taken. there is new ground to cover. the armoire bridges to be crossed. -- are more bridges to be crossed. and it is you, the most diverse and dedicated generation in our history who the nation is waiting to follow. selma shows us that america is not the project of any one person.
because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word "we." "we the people." "weyesd we can." what a glorious task we are given to continually tried to improve this great nation of ours. 50 years from bloody sunday from our march is not yet finished. but we are getting closer. 239 years after this nation's founding, it is not yet perfect but we are getting closer. our job is easier because somebody already got us through that first mile, someone already got us over that bridge.
when the torch feels too heavy we will remember these early travelers and draw strength from their example and hold firmly to the words of the prophet isaiah -- those who hope in the lord will renew their strength, they will store on the wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be -- we are those who walk so we could run. we must run us our children sore and we will not go where he or we believe in the power of an awesome god and we believe in this country's sacred process -- promise. blessed united states of america. thank you, everybody. [applause]
ancestors when they're reminded us you were able to take that which was meant for able and turn it to good. that you could take rugged -- we have come to do a little bit of patting each other on the back and patting ourselves on the back but to realize our congratulatory moment is on limit possible because we stand -- is only made possible because we stand on the shoulders of others. emission -- we want to shout to the top of our lungs that the mission as not been abandoned. we come to confess our sins and failures in our personal and collective lives. we declare to the world we still have faith in you, in ourselves our system of government, the city of selma. become to pay our respects to
those who have gone before us because we surely cannot pay the debt we owed to them will stop bless us now and help us to go forward in the spirit of those who stood here worked, bled, suffered here, but did not stop here. in the blessed name of our lord and savior and all that is holy, we pray. amen, amen, and amen. [applause] ♪