Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island, Queens) recently joined members of congress on a Civil Rights pilgrimage to Alabama to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday marches.
The three historic marches, which stretched from Selma to Montgomery, were a significant turning point in the struggle for racial equality, as roughly 600 protesters were gassed and clubbed by police along the Edmund Pettis Bridge.
The actions by law enforcement resulted in a court order of protection, resuming the march, only this time with more than 3,200 in attendance. Protesters marched 12 miles a day and would sleep in the fields. When they finally arrived at the state capitol on March 25th, 1965, they were more than 25,000 strong.
Less than five months after the events on Bloody Sunday, former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Over the weekend, Suozzi met with noted civil rights luminaries such as Minnijean Brown-Trickey, a member of the Little Rock Nine, which was a group of nine African American teenagers who integrated Little Rock Central High School.
He also met with Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis, Joan Mulholland, a civil rights activist, and Freedom Rider, Rev. James Lawson, who Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world,” and Bettie Mae Fikes, gospel singer known as the “voice of Selma.”
“This weekend, I had the great honor of joining my friend Congressman John Lewis, along with my colleagues and many civil rights luminaries, as we commemorated the 55th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. I continue to remain and am further inspired by the ideas of the civil rights movement; that all men and women are created equal and that truth and non-violence will set us free,” Suozzi said. “Being present at these now sacred sites from our nation’s civil rights history, along with some of those who selflessly fought for racial equality, was both humbling and powerful.
On Friday, March 6, Suozzi visited several sites, including the Memorial of Peace and Justice in Montgomery – the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people and people terrorized by lynching. He also visited the interactive Legacy Museum, which is located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved and immerses visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system.
Suozzi met with Bridges, Brown-Trickey, Mulholland and several other leaders of the civil rights movement on Saturday, March 7. He also joined the delegation in visiting more historical landmarks, including the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, which became associated with the Montgomery bus boycott and the Freedom Riders, and the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which was the headquarters of the civil rights movement.
Finally, on the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march, Suozzi joined Rep. John Lewis, Bettie Mae Fikes, “the voice of Selma,” and several others on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the day voting right marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement.
Submitted by the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi