This past Saturday a small group of us participated in the Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a day when people across the globe come together in small groups and take photographs. If you haven’t participated, you are really missing a great time. Our group drove to Selma, Alabama. Selma is a small town that is very rich in history, and played a very important role in the Voting Act of 1965.
Voting rights were a complicated issue in 1965. In Selma where the population was 99% white, African Americans had little chance of being able to vote. During one demonstration a fight broke out between some locals, state troopers, and some 400 demonstrators, and in the process a man was shot in the stomach. Jimmie Lee Jackson died eight days later. After this happened a plan was made for a peaceful march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery, roughly 50 miles away.
The days before the march were very chaotic and stressful as some people were targeted by others as they continued to register to vote. Some of those who successfully registered were beaten. Others were refused Federal aid for food, and others were refused credit at local banks and stores. Some people even lost their jobs, just for simply wanting to vote.
On the day of the march, Sunday March 7, 1965, Alabama governor George Wallace ordered state and local police to stop the 600 demonstrators on the grounds of Public Safety. The group was confronted by authorities armed with billy clubs and tear gas as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in what is today known as “Bloody Sunday.”
I remember my mother telling me a story from when she was a child. For some reason her father or brothers were burning something, probably leaves, in their yard. Her parents had warned her not to play around the fire. However, the flames were captivating and she began dancing around it getting closer to the blaze each time she circled. Before long the dress that she was wearing came in contact with the flames and they began running up her side. Someone quickly came to her rescue and extinguished the fire. Had they not she would have certainly would have been burned more severely. There are few comparisons to the pain of a burn, but with the passing of time she was able to heal. However, though hidden by her clothes most of the time, she carried the scars the rest of her life.
We Southerners have had some moments in our history that are a source of much pride, and then there are others that are not. Like my Mother’s burns, many wounds have healed over time, but the scars still remain. They are hidden beneath our clothes most of the time, but they are still there as a reminder of how easy it is for people to allow the end to justify their means. George Santayana is credited for saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Maybe this is the reason for scars.