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The Jeoffroy Collection - Selma to Montgomery March (1965)

Joe Jeoffroy

Silent | 1965

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  •  Protesters—and law enforcement—gather en masse in Selma, AL 
  •  The march to Montgomery begins 
  •  Outside the Brown Chapel, the starting point of the march as well as the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 
  •  Reporters speak to a man sitting in a car. It is possible that the individual is Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, one of the officials responsible for the violent arrests of unarmed demonstrators during the first Selma march, also known as "Bloody Sunday."  
  •  The Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery 
  •  Back outside the Brown Chapel 
  •  A helicopter flies overhead 
 
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This home movie taken by Ray Jeoffroy of Amarillo captures scenes of civil rights demonstrators launching what is most likely the third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965. The marches were a part of the Selma Voting Rights Campaign, a movement that sought to combat racial inequality and the obstruction of voting registration for African Americans. Attracting thousands of participants, not to mention national and international coverage, the march became an integral part of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement, and ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the footage, protesters gather outside the Brown Chapel while law enforcement vehicles and personnel string the surrounding streets. After the marchers depart, others congregate outside of the church, which also served as the headquarters for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights campaign organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,  and the Dallas County Voters League. The movement began in January with local and regional protests led by civil rights and civil leaders. Following the fatal shooting of 26-year-old church deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper during a peaceful march on February 18, activists decided to organize a nonviolent march to the state capitol building in Montgomery. On March 7, demonstrators set out on the first march, though they did not make it to Montgomery. State troopers and local lawmen attacked the unarmed demonstrators with clubs and tear gas as the marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As a result, the event became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
 
Notwithstanding the threat of violence and a pending federal restraining order, the activists planned a second march for two days later. More than 2,000 protesters, led by King, marched to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 9. To avoid another confrontation, however, demonstrators did not cross the bridge, but rather stopped at the site and prayed. After prayers, the marchers turned around and returned to Selma. While many activists criticized King’s decision not to push on to Montgomery, the move triggered President Lyndon B. Johnson’s support. The Texas-born politician addressed Congress on March 15, identifying himself with the Selma demonstrators and their cause, and submitted voting rights legislation to the assembly two days later on March 17. 
 
For the third march, the Selma protest organizers received federal approval for the demonstration as well as protection from harassment by local law enforcement. The five-day, 54-mile march began at the Brown Chapel in Selma on March 21. Covering seven to 17 miles per day, demonstrators camped in supporters’ yards and enjoyed entertainment by celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne. The number of demonstrators swelled to 25,000 by the time they reached Montgomery on March 25. 
 
While Governor George Wallace of Alabama rebuffed march leaders’ attempts to deliver a petition after the final rally, the protest marches proved critical to the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement, ultimately leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Johnson signed the bill on August 6, with King and other civil rights leaders in attendance.