Legislation removed barriers that had prevented black people from voting. Millions joined voting rolls across the country, and thousands went on to win elections to offices in city halls, state legislatures, Congress, and, eventually, the White House.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., one of those beaten in Selma on March 7, 1965, told USA TODAY that “some of us gave a little blood on that bridge to redeem the soul of America, to make America better.”
Obama and others attending Selma events this weekend are expected to praise racial progress but also address many remaining challenges. The president and allies have accused some states of seeking to dilute minority votes through voter identification laws and various redistricting plans. The Selma commemoration also takes place amid tense police-minority relations across the country.
“Bloody Sunday” was a catalyst for the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, paving the way for black voters across the country to exercise their right. Find out what led up to the event and the impact it had on American history.
Black voters, reliably Republican for decades following the Civil War, are now overwhelmingly Democratic. The Republican Party — once anathema in the South — is now predominantly white and dominant in many Southern states. Former president George W. Bush and other Republicans are scheduled to attend this weekend’s events in Selma.
Coming a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 quickened the pace of integration in the United States, bringing social and economic benefits.