By: Alyssa Wilson
Sunday marked the 56th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
In 1965, as Black residents in the south marched in hopes of registering to vote, they were met with violence at the hands of police and white supremacist groups.
On March 7 of that year, peaceful protesters planned a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the death of a Black man fatally shot by an Alabama State Trooper.
Those protesters were attacked on the Edmund Pettis Bridge and in what is now known as “Bloody Sunday.”
Weeks later, on March 21, about 2,000 people set out to complete the march from Selma to Montgomery with protection from U.S. Army troops and the Alabama National Gaurd.
The youngest woman to participate in that monumental march was 15-year-old Lynda Blackmon Lowery.
She joined Start Your Day with Sharon Reed and Mike Hill to discuss her experiences in the fight for freedom.
At the age of seven, she made a vow to march for justice and create change after her mother died. She heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak about nonviolent activism at the age of 13 and she set out to change things.
Before her 15th birthday, she was arrested and sent to jail nine times, including two stays at a state prison camp.
As a result of the vicious attacks on Bloody Sunday, Lynda Blackmon Lowery still carries her scars from the injuries she sustained on her face and head.
She said her decision to continue marching was motivated by anger.
“When we arrived in Montgomery, four days later, after we started that march, I remember just falling down on my knees and crying and I couldn’t stop crying and I was crying for that anger I felt,” Lowery said. “It was really anger at this point that drove me to walk from Selma to Montgomery. I was angry with Governor George Wallace for what he had done to me and the other people on that bridge on March 7. I was angry, but I was also afraid.”
Lowery said she hated the people that subjected her and other protesters to violence, hatred and harm, but then her feelings changed.
“When we reached Montgomery, after four days, I was just relieved. Then I became proud. I was proud of myself because I had started something and I had completed it,” she said. “I did not know we were making history.”
When asked about the mental scars she carries, Lowery said she could not talk about the incidents for 40 years before telling her story.
Her book, Turning 15 On The Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, documents her experience marching for the voting rights some legislators are trying to limit today.
Her advice to today’s activists is to look back to the past to enhance the present.
“Now, young people. You have a bigger and more dangerous fight to do, hopefully nonviolently,” Lowery said. “And that’s to put the word human, back in humanity.”
She wants young activists to know that they have the wisdom and power to make a change.
“We put the word unity back in the word community in 1965. It is up to you now to put the word human back in the word humanity. When you do that, your life, your future generations’ lives, will not have to go through what you’re going through now.”
You can find more information about Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s book here.