Annual Reenactment of the Selma Civil Rights March to Exercise Voting Rights

A Tribune article dated March 6, 2017, reported that thousands converged this year in the City of Selma for the annual reenactment of the 1965 march across the bridge over the Alabama River. This article inspired Sherri Danoff, NAACP SLO County branch member, to plan to participate in the 2018 reenactment. She will share what she learns from this event.


“Voting rights are under attack…” proclaims the American Civil Liberties Union’s website. Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures that dilute voting rights by making voting more difficult, particularly for black people, as well as for students, elderly people and people with disabilities. Recent voting obstacles include requiring identification that is difficult to obtain without vehicles and closure of polling places in neighborhoods with heavy minority concentrations. Added to this is widespread gerrymandering of voting districts that disburses voting power of minority communities, thereby limiting representation from these communities.

“THE VOTER PURGES ARE COMING” headlines a recent New York Times op-ed Opinion. Significant concerns surround the Trump administration’s creation of the Commission on Election Integrity and its initial actions. Impetus for this Commission was the President’s unsupported contention of voter fraud in the presidential election. (7/19/17, Vanita Gupta, President, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights)

“Overall, at least 99 bills to restrict access to registration and voting have been introduced in 31 states, including bills to cut times when voting can occur. Thirty-five such bills saw significant legislative action, meaning they have at least been approved at the committee level or beyond, in 17 states. This year five states already have enacted bills to cut back on voting access and another state is on the verge, as of May.

By comparison, three states enacted voting restrictions in 2015 and 2016 combined. (Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. School of Law)

Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, black Americans were prohibited at state and local levels by literacy and other tests from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On March 7, 1965, activists set out to peacefully march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery to advocate voting rights. The marchers made their way through Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they faced a blockade of state troopers and local lawmen who ordered the marchers to disperse. When marchers refused, the troopers attacked the crowd with clubs and tear gas. Mounted police chased retreating marchers and continued to beat them. Television coverage of ‘‘Bloody Sunday,’’ as the event became known, triggered national outrage. “Bloody Sunday” contributed momentum toward passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

We must not be complacent about erosion of hard-won voting rights.

Sherri Danoff