Sunday, March 30, 2008

Selma march remembered

Today's Los Angeles Times features an article about people in Selma remembering the march 43 years ago:

The Rev. Frederick D. Reese was in a packed church, reading Scripture to the bruised and battered congregants, when the phone rang in the pastor's study.

It was the evening of March 7, 1965 -- "Bloody Sunday" in Selma. Most of the 600 civil-rights marchers who had been attacked by Alabama state troopers that afternoon had retreated to hear Reese at the Brown Chapel AME Church, home of the movement in Selma. When Reese picked up the phone, the voice on the other end said, "I understand you had a little trouble down there." It was a fellow preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., calling from Atlanta.

"Dr. King, that's a huge understatement," Reese remembers replying. He now chuckles as he tells the story, but back in those dark days of the mid-'60s, there was nothing funny about it.

"The state troopers had billy clubs in both hands. They literally went down the line, toppling the marchers over as if you were toppling bowling pins in a bowling alley," the pastor, now 79, remembers in an interview.

King told Reese he was mobilizing ministers from around the country to make their way to Selma. They did, along with thousands of other people. What followed two weeks later was a turning point in black America's struggle for equality: the voting-rights march from the Brown Chapel AME Church to the state Capitol, 50 miles away in Montgomery. Reese was in the front row of marchers, next to King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

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