On a quiet bridge that spans a creek, West Virginia University students will remember a 600-person march held in a time of oppression and violence, as well as hope.
On March 7, 1965, about 600 civil rights activists attempted to march east from Selma, Ala.
They made it six blocks.
Police with tear gas and clubs halted the marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But the demonstrators accomplished their goal before the month was out.
On Sunday (March 6), a local band of marchers will remember their sacrifices beginning at 3 p.m. on the High Street Bridge. While singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” the group will make their way to the Mountainlair for a moment of silence and closing remarks in the free speech zone.
A reception will follow in the Mountaineer Room of the Mountainlair.
Hosted by the WVU student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and the P.I. Reed School of Journalism, the event will encourage the WVU and Morgantown community to think of justice then and now.Professor Ethel Morgan Smith says she’s able to work in WVU’s Department of English now because of the stand taken by those in marches like the one on Bloody Sunday.
She’s surprised when students don’t know the facets of civil rights history in this country and sees it as her main mission to educate them on these points.
After the thwarted march at the bridge, participants marched again briefly on March 9. On March 21, marchers traveled from Selma to Montgomery, a trip that took five days. They marched about 10 miles a day and slept in nearby fields.
“What they did is so phenomenal,” Smith said.
That march of 25,000 was an important influence in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. And that march needed the push by those Bloody Sunday marchers who were stopped, which prompted a federal judge to rule that the participants had a right to air grievances by marching.
“When you have people not given their rights, it makes us all inhumane in a certain way,” Smith said. “I think it is important to understand that what has happened to African Americans in this country is important to all Americans because it has all made us more humane.”
Marjorie Fuller, director of the Center for Black Culture and Research, said the march reflects the University’s Black History Month theme, “The Torch is Ours,” which emphasizes the importance of history and honors those who fought and died for the cause of freedom and justice.
“As we take time to remember the accomplishments of our forebears, we must also remember our responsibility to keep the torch lit and pass it on to a new generation,” Fuller said.
“Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, said, ‘Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.’
“That’s why events like this Bloody Sunday Remembrance March are so important. They remind us of how hard won the battle for freedom and justice has been, and of the price that was paid to make our world a better place.
“So we hope to have many join us on Sunday because our history is very much a part of our future.”
CONTACT: Chelsea Fuller, WVU student chapter NABJ
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