My wife, Nellie, and I have recently seen the movie “Selma.” It centers around the Selma to Montgomery Marches and the huge successful effort it had in getting the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed which guaranteed voting rights for all citizens, including Blacks.
Two of the most important bills ever passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson are the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the highly important Voting Rights Act in 1965. The South at this time was segregated and Blacks were not allowed to vote. President Johnson, a Southerner, knew full well that, if he worked for the Voting Rights Act, it would spell the doom of the Democratic Party in the South for years to come. He was therefore rather reluctant to take on getting the vote for Blacks.
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But the non-violent Selma marches and other actions led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. convinced Johnson that it was the right thing, both morally and for the good of the country as a whole, to work for and to sign those bills into law. The Selma marches and the reaction by the country to them was the turning point in the successful struggle to abolish segregation.
My wife and I both grew up in Mississippi. In those days the South was solidly Democratic. We were “Yellow Dog Democrats,” meaning that if a yellow hound dog was put up for public office as a Democrat, it would be elected. After the Voting Rights Act was passed, the White population almost overnight switched to the Republican Party.
But the Voting Rights Act accomplished its purpose. Blacks were allowed the vote. As a result many local officials are now Blacks, including sheriffs, legislators, supervisors, and mayors. Today Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, has a Black Mayor. Meridian, another prominent city, also has a Black Mayor.
The movie does a fine job of showing that, in spite of human weaknesses on the part of leaders, both Black and White, splendid things can be accomplished. Showing now in select theatres, It begins general distribution on Friday, January 9. It is a remarkable and very moving film. Please make an extra effort to see this monumental movie.