This Day in History: 1965-03-25

Day 5 of the 5-day, 54-mile Selma to Montgomery March, taking place March 21-25. This third and final Selma voting rights march followed the earlier March 7, “Bloody Sunday” march, and the March 9, “Turnaround Tuesday” march. On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people marched from the previous night campsite at the Town of St. Jude complex on the outskirts of Montgomery to the steps of the State Capitol Building in Montgomery where King delivered the speech “How Long, Not Long“. He said: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. … I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long.” After delivering the speech, King and the marchers approached the entrance to the capitol with a petition for Governor Wallace. A line of state troopers blocked the door. One announced that the governor was not in. Undeterred, the marchers remained at the entrance until one of Wallace’s secretaries appeared and took the petition. The three Selma to Montgomery marches had a powerful effect in Washington. After witnessing the police violent attacks on the “Bloody Sunday” marchers, President Johnson presented a voting rights bill to a joint session of Congress in a televised speech on March 15. It was considered to be a watershed moment for the civil rights movement. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965, and prohibited most of the unfair practices used to prevent blacks from registering to vote, and provided for federal registrars to go to Alabama and other states with a history of voting-related discrimination to ensure that the law was implemented by overseeing registration and elections.