On Exhibit: Bloody Sunday

Between 1961 and 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) held a voting registration campaign in Selma, Alabama, a town known to suppress African American voting.

When their efforts were stymied by local enforcement officials, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led by Martin Luther King, Jr., pushed Selma into the national spotlight.

On March 7, 1965, 600 civil rights protesters attempted a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, the state capital, to draw attention to the voting rights issue.

Led by Hosea Williams of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC, the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River on their way to Montgomery. There they encountered Alabama state troopers and local police officers who gave them a two-minute warning to stop and turn back. When the protesters refused, the officers tear-gassed and beat them. Over 50 people were hospitalized.

Photograph of the Two Minute Warning on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. (National Archives Identifier 16899041)

Photograph of the two-minute warning on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. (National Archives Identifier 16899041)

The events became known as “Bloody Sunday” and were televised worldwide.

A few weeks later a march from Selma to Montgomery was completed under federal protection.

Later than year, on August 6, 1965—partly due to the efforts of civil rights activists in Selma and around the nation—President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. This act attempted to remove barriers faced by African Americans in exercising their constitutional right to vote.

The statement made to the FBI by activists John Lewis and Stella Davis, who were both injured during the events of Bloody Sunday, are on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. from July 30 through August 26, 2015.

Statement of John Lewis regarding Selma's "Bloody Sunday," March 8, 1965. (Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Archives)

Statement of John Lewis regarding Selma’s “Bloody Sunday,” March 8, 1965. (Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Archives)

A group of an estimated 3,200 Civil Rights demonstrators crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, March 21, 1965. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

A group of an estimated 3,200 Civil Rights demonstrators crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, March 21, 1965. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

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