Four giants of the civil rights movement, including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, will be honored in 2020 as part of a commemoration of a crucial moment in the struggle for African Americans’ voting rights.
The Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee will commemorate the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when civil rights marchers were violently assaulted by police on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. On Sunday, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and attorney Bruce Boynton will be remembered as late civil rights activists.
Bloody Sunday was a watershed moment in the struggle for voting rights. The beatings were recorded on film, which aided in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
This year’s commemoration comes as several states continue to scale back expanded early and mail-in voting access, and attempts to restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act requiring states with a history of discrimination to seek federal approval for any improvements to voting procedures have been unsuccessful.
Former state senator Hank Sanders, one of the event’s organizers, said, “Those of us who are still alive, especially the young, need to take up the challenge and go forward because there is still so much to be done.”
Thousands of people typically attend the event in Selma. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the events will be held practically this year.
It will be a drive-in event for the annual Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast. At the breakfast, the Rev. Bernard LaFayette, Martin Luther King III, and the founders of Black Voters Matter will talk.
U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia and U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina will also make video remarks.
Lowery, a charismatic and fiery preacher who headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is also regarded as the dean of civil rights veterans.
In the 1940s, Vivian began organizing anti-segregation sit-ins and later teamed up with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Vivian led thousands of marchers to a Selma courthouse in 1965, where she confronted the local sheriff on the courthouse steps and demanded that the marchers be allowed to register to vote. Vivian was punched in the head by the sheriff.
Boynton was arrested in Virginia for entering the white section of a racially segregated bus station, setting off a chain reaction that eventually led to the repeal of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton challenged his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting segregation in bus stations.
His case sparked the 1961 Freedom Riders, a group of young people who rode buses around the South to see whether court-ordered desegregation was being implemented. They were subjected to white gang brutality and imprisonment by local authorities.