Chief among many of the goals that Civil Rights activists were aiming for was to secure their voting rights. Although the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed African Americans the right to vote, many states, especially those in the South, implemented discriminatory practices and laws that infringed on that right. African Americans were effectively prohibited from voting in many places in America.
Over the years many protests against these discriminatory practices took place. One of the largest happened in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights activists had organized a series of marches from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. Three marches were organized. During the first march, protesters were attacked by state trooper. This became known as Bloody Sunday.
The second march was led by Martin Luther King Jr. King led the protesters to the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge but turned back when confronted by state troopers. He was following a court order. That night a white group murdered a civil rights activist named James Reed.
Here is a reenactment of the second march from the film Selma.
The acts of violence committed against the protesters sparked national outrage. Many citizens demanded that the protesters be protected and that a new voting rights law be enacted. For the third march President Lyndon Johnson sent the national guard and federal marshals to protect the marchers. The marchers arrived safely at the capital along with thousands of supporters.
Soon after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed into law. This bill removed many of the racist rules and regulations that disenfranchised African American voters. By highlighting the racial injustice in America with the Selma marchers, civil rights activists helped the passage of one of the greatest achievements of the Civil Rights Movement.