By Don Rajael, CCNN Writer
It’s the 51st anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, a series of major civil rights protests that took place from March 7-25, 1965 and resulted in the Voting Rights Act.
Although President Abraham Lincoln had freed slaves during the Civil War with his Emancipation Proclamation, leading the Union to victory against the slave-owning Southern Confederacy, states continued treating African-Americans unfairly.
In the 1960s, civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. led national non-violent protests that pressured President Lyndon B. Johnson and the USA’s lawmaking Congress to pass equal rights laws like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Still, many states in the South refused to stop segregation, racially dividing Blacks and Whites.
To end the repression of African-American voters, protesters marched to the Alabama capital of Selma from Montgomery, surviving brutal police tactics and abuse from local citizens. The Selma marches were nationally televised, sparking a public outcry as American citizens saw first-hand how badly Blacks were being mistreated. When Governor George Wallace refused to protect the marchers, President Johnson sent thousands of soldiers and government agents to help.
On March 25, 25,000 people reached the Alabama State Capitol building. Several months later, on August 6, the Voting Rights Act went into effect, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. The inspiring story of the dramatic marches was recently portrayed in the movie Selma, and its main song “Glory” won a Golden Globe and Academy Award in 2015. To mark the historic event’s 50th anniversary, the first African-American president, Barack Obama, joined thousands of people in Selma.