In early 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) made Selma, Alabama, the focus of its efforts to register black voters in the South, in an attempt to increase black participation and political presence in these southern states.
That March, protesters attempting to march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were met with violent resistance by state and local authorities.
As the world watched, the protesters (under the protection of federalized National Guard troops) finally achieved their goal, walking around the clock for three days to reach Montgomery.
Nearly 50,000 supporters–black and white–met the marchers in Montgomery, where they gathered in front of the state capitol to hear King and other speakers including Ralph Bunche (winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize) address the crowd.
“No tide of racism can stop us,” King proclaimed from the building’s steps, as viewers from around the world watched the historic moment on television.
The historic march, and King’s participation in it, greatly helped raise awareness of the difficulty faced by black voters in the South, and the need for a Voting Rights Act, passed later that year.
Along with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act was one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history.
Its effects greatly reduced the disparity between black and white voters in the U.S. and allowed a greater number of African Americans to enter political life at the local, state and national level.
This was the first of many triumphs Martin Luther King Jr would have in his search for equality in America.