San Franciscans Support Civil Rights in 1965

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, would have been 86 years old on January 15. When the “Selma Voting Rights Campaign,” named for Selma, Alabama, officially started on January 2, 1965, Dr. King was just 35 years old. He addressed a mass meeting in a Selma church in defiance of the anti-meeting injunction. Out of that presentation, organizers planned the marches to support voting rights for all, triggering worldwide public recognition of the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunday, March 7, 1965, became known as “Bloody Sunday.” A group of 600 marchers, led by 25 year old civil rights activist John Lewis, attempted to march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery. The peaceful marchers were met by state troopers on horseback who tossed canisters of tear gas at the crowd. Lewis was one of many marchers who were beaten. The confrontation was seen on television around the world. Here is a rare film clip of the “Bloody Sunday” march:

After “Bloody Sunday,” protests about what happened in Selma were staged in 80 cities in the US. People gathered in front of San Francisco City Hall to protest the lack of support from the federal government in protecting the marchers. Many Americans of all races traveled to Selma to join the local protestors for two more marches led by Dr. King on March 9 and March 21. A group of San Francisco Theological Seminary students and faculty members participated in those marches, led by the President of the college, the Reverend Dr. Theodore Gill.

Following the final march, Dr. King explained his philosophy of challenging unjust laws on the NBC public affairs program “Meet the Press” on March 29, 1965:

To dramatize these events, the movie, “Selma,” has just opened in theaters across the country. Here is the movie trailer:

Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Rev. Dr. Ted Gill of the San Francisco Theological Seminary died on June 10, 2005, at the age of 85. And U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who turns 75 years old in February, was just reelected to his 15th term representing Georgia’s 5th congressional district. In 2011, he was awarded our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Best wishes,