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Selma


Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny the right of people to vote. Before passage of the Voting Rights Act, a black person would go to register to vote only to be told that the day was wrong, or the hour was late, or the official in charge was absent. And if he persisted, and if he managed to present himself to the registrar, he would often be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he managed to fill out an application, he was given a test and the registrar became the sole judge of whether or not he passed this test. For the test he may have been asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provision of State law.

By the end of 1964, the need for voting rights legislation became clear to both civil rights groups and the Johnson administration. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) went to Selma, Alabama in early 1965 to register voters. By early March, several civil rights groups planned a march to Montgomery to dramatize registration inequities. After two unsuccessful marches, many injured marchers, several deaths, a presidential speech proposing the Voting Rights Act, and federalizing the Alabama National Guard, the march from Selma to Montgomery began on March 21, 1965.

Map By the end of 1964, the need for voting rights became clear to both Civil Rights leaders & the Johnson Administration. In early 65, several civil rights groups planned a march from Selma to Montgomery, a distance of 50 miles, to dramatize registration inequities.

Civil Rights


Civil Rights was an important issue to the Johnson administration. Review the attached timeline which discusses the activities undertaken by Johnson and his administration.


The Joseph Califano Reports
The marchers gathered in the evening of March 21, 1965 and the 50 mile march from Selma to Montgomery began on March 22 and lasted for 4 days. Below are a series of letters written by Joseph Califano, Jr., Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, outlining the progression of the march. Review them closely then try the activities at the end of this page.

Click on each report name to view an enlarged picture and read the report. The reports have been re-typed at the bottom of each page for your convenience.

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ACTIVITIES

Using the map of the Selma to Mongomery march and the Joseph Califano reports, trace the daily march and provide the following information:
  • chart the daily progress on the map; include distance covered
  • graph the numbers of marchers each day; break down into ethnic groups
  • convert the 24-hour clock time (military time) into civilian time (based on 12 hours x2); explain why you think the military uses this mehod of telling time
  • construct a daily weather report and write a summary about the weather conditions the marchers endured; graph your temperature finding
  • write a daily diary from the point of view of a marcher
  • write a daily diary from the point of view of a trooper/police officer
  • write a daily diary from the point of view of a newspaper reporter

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