Fifty-four years ago, today, the First March of the Selma to Montgomery marches took place. The planned marches were a response to the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Alabama State Trooper James Fowler. Fowler shot Jackson on February 18, 1965, during a clash between, approximately, 500 protestors walking to Perry County Jail for James Orange and, Marion police officers, sheriff’s deputies and the state troopers. Jackson died from his injuries on February 26. Other casualties that night were two UPI photographers and NBC News correspondent Richard Valereani.
The death of Jackson motivated James Bevel “to initiate and organize the first Selma to Montgomery march to present a way for the citizens of Marion and Selma to direct the anger over Jackson’s death into a positive outcome.” Amelia Boynton assisted with the planning.
As the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state, and county police, stopped the march and beat the protesters. Boynton was knocked unconscious and the photograph of her wounded body got the entire world’s attention.
The third march to Montgomery spanned March 21 through March 24. By Thursday, March 25, the movement had reached the State Capitol Building. The murder of Viola Liuzzo was the final end to the violence and the 18 day struggle. Her murder, however, uncovered an FBI Informant, exposing J. Edgar Hoover‘s illegal activities.