Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King Jr’

50 Years Ago: Selma to Montgomery and the Right to Vote

Selma to Montgomery March Research Topic in ProQuest eLibrary

Selma to Montgomery March Research Topic in ProQuest eLibrary

Imagine you go to your county clerk to register to vote. You complete the required registration forms and give them to the clerk. However, before being added to the voter roll, you are told you must pay a poll tax or pass a literacy test—a test with questions such as “How many county judges are there in the state?” or “Name each of the county judges in the state.” Many people, educated or not, would not be able to answer these questions. Scenes like this (as depicted in the recent movie Selma) played out in the South daily for many African Americans when trying to register to vote.  Though the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the denial of the right to vote of any citizen based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude” by both the federal and state governments, it would be 100 years before African Americans had that right fully enforced.

Efforts to register black voters in Selma (Dallas County) Alabama began in 1963 with local organizers joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned racial discrimination and protected voting rights, African Americans continued to be disenfranchised at every turn. In the spring of 1965, at the urging of local activists, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined the cause.

On February 18, during a peaceful protest march, activist Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by a state police officer. He died from his wounds on February 26. His death would be the catalyst for the march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery.

Police attack Selma to Montgomery marchers on March 7, 1965 (Bloody Sunday).

Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

At Dr. King’s encouraging, supporters from all over the country came to Selma to march. The first march took place on March 7.  Some 600 marchers would be attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by troopers and county locals armed with barbed-wire billy clubs and tear gas. John Lewis, one of the leaders, sustained a head injury. Another leader, Amelia Boynton, beaten unconscious, lay on the bridge. Images of the violence on Bloody Sunday as it would become known were seen worldwide.  Two days later, instead of walking through the police presence which had moved to allow the marchers to pass, Dr. King led marchers back to Selma in order to receive federal protection for the march.  That same night, James Reeb, a Unitarian pastor from Boston who had heeded the call to come to Selma, was murdered.  The nation was outraged by what it had seen in Selma.  In response, on March 15, President Lyndon Johnson before a televised session of Congress asked for the passage of a voting rights bill stating “the real hero of this struggle is the American negro…he has asked us to make good the promise of America.”

The final march to Montgomery began six days after President Johnson’s appeal.  With federal protection, marchers walked 54 miles on Route 80 sleeping and eating on the side of the road.  Arriving in Montgomery on March 24 and at the state capitol building on March 25, the group was 25,000 strong.

The Selma marches were pivotal in the civil rights movement.  From the small town of Selma, Alabama one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation was born.  On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.  The pressure of activists, many whose names are not known, resulted in the enfranchisement of millions of African Americans over the years.

The Academy Awards: A Most Biographical Year

Academy Awards

Academy Awards Research Topic [Screencap via eLibrary]

It’s that time of year: awards season. The Golden Globe Awards have been presented recently and the Academy Awards, the 87th to be exact, will be given on February 22. Cinephiles will gather round televisions to root for their favorite movies and actors just as Patriots and Seahawks fans did two days ago. The Oscars are Hollywood’s “Super Bowl.”

The race for Best Picture this year is particularly noteworthy. Of the eight nominees, four are biographical—two Americans fighting for country in different ways and two British scientists making strides and becoming leaders in their fields.

The movie Selma stars David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and focuses on his leadership during the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in 1965.  These marches helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  Signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965, the Act barred racial discrimination in voting.

American Sniper is the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most productive military sniper in US history with 160 confirmed kills. Bradley Cooper portrays Kyle who served four tours of duty in the Iraq War.  Sadly, Chris Kyle was shot and killed in 2013 by a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder whom he was helping.

Stephen Hawking is widely known for his work in cosmology.  In The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne depicts Stephen Hawking’s romance, marriage and life with his first wife Jane as well as his education and work in astrophysics. All the while, he struggles with onset of motor neuron disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS) which he continues to battle to this day.

Alan Turing may be the least known of those whose stories have been put to screen this year.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars in The Imitation Game as the man who would become known as the Father of Computer Science. Turing’s work at Bletchley Park breaking the German Enigma code during World War II helped save countless Allied lives and was influential in the development of modern computer science.

To learn more about these remarkable men, look no further than eLibrary.  A great jumping off point for your research is Research Topics.  You can easily find these by clicking on Find your Research Topic here on the Basic Search page.

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