By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Legendary Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) made an inspiring return to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1 to help commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”
“Fifty-five years ago, a few of our children attempted to march across this bridge. We were beaten, we were tear gassed. I thought I was going to die on this bridge, but somehow and someway, God almighty helped me here,” Lewis offered while several people held the 80-year-old icon up to make sure the large crowd in attendance could see him and hear his encouraging words.
During the original march in 1965, Lewis suffered a broken skull after white police officers attacked him and others in an attempt to stop the civil rights activists.
Diagnosed late last year with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Lewis implored everyone to cast their vote in the 2020 election.
“We must go out and vote like we never, ever voted before. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give in. We’re going to continue to fight,” he said.
“We need your prayers now more than ever before. We must use the vote as a nonviolent instrument or tool to redeem the soul of America.”
With the Revs. William Barber, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, and former Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams among the many participating, the commemorative march paid tribute to civil rights protests that pushed for voting rights.
In the 1965 march, Lewis, who was part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Rev. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led participants in an attempt to walk from Selma to Montgomery.
Alabama state police and other authorities intervened, violently beating Lewis, Williams, and other protestors, which led to dozens of injuries.
The anniversary also paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., traveled to Selma where King attempted another march but, to the dismay of some demonstrators, turned back when troopers again blocked the highway at the Pettus Bridge.
After a federal court order permitted the protest, the voting rights marchers left Selma on March 21, under the protection of federalized National Guard troops.
Four days later, they reached Montgomery with the crowd growing to 25,000 by the time they reached the capitol steps, according to the History Channel.
To document the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” newspaper personnel from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), including reporters and photographers from the Birmingham Times, Green County Democrat, and NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
While in Selma, Chavis earned induction into the Voting Rights Museum Hall of Fame for Ministers.
Located at the foot of the Pettus Bridge, the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute counts as the cornerstone of the contemporary struggle for voting rights and human dignity.
“The Black Press of America, represented by NNPA, retook steps along with thousands of people, to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate Bloody Sunday in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, in our long struggle for voting rights in America,” Chavis stated.
“On the eve of the 2020 Super Tuesday primary elections in 12 states across the nation, our commemorative march this year in Selma had critical relevance to our demand for full restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that has been diluted,” he noted.
“The Black vote is 2020 will determine the next President of the United States and the makeup of the U. S. Congress. We cannot afford to allow anyone or anything to keep us from voting. The Black Press has always been on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement and we remain there today. Black Votes Matter, and the Black Press Matters.”