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Follow the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, through the photography of Stephen Somerstein, an eyewitness to the critical civil rights events of March 1965.
The historic march was a major event of the civil rights movement, with the main goal to ensure the right to vote for African Americans. Although the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, made it illegal to deny voting rights based on the citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude," almost 100 years later, African Americans in the South were still not able to exercise their right to vote. A series of state and local regulations maintained segregation. Barriers such as poll taxes and literacy tests hindered black women and men from full participation in civil society. The 1965 Selma voting rights campaign, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery march, led to the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1965, finally prohibiting states from legislating voting impediments.
On 21 March 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Hosea Williams began a four-day, 54-mile march under the federal protection of the Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents, authorized by President Lyndon B. Johnson. By the time the demonstrators arrived in Montgomery, their number had grown to 25.000. Upon the arrival in state capitol, King delivered the historic Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March, proclaiming that:
"The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man."
Hearing of the events, the 24-year-old photographer Stephan Somerstein joined the march to document it for his college newspaper. He captured photographs of prominent activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin. He also took powerful portraits of his fellow demonstrators and anonymous bystanders who observed this historic march and the civil rights actions in progress.