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White House: President Biden to refocus on voting rights during Selma visit

Biden China
Susan Walsh/AP
FILE - President Joe Biden walks towards reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 3, 2023, before boarding Marine One. The Biden administration is close to finalizing new regulations that would tighten rules on certain overseas U.S. investment, a move aimed at limiting Beijing’s ability to acquire advanced technologies. That's according to a U.S. official familiar with deliberations who was not authorized to comment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

President Joe Biden is set to pay tribute to the heroes of "Bloody Sunday" this weekend in Selma. He'll be joining thousands for the annual commemoration of the seminal moment in the civil rights movement that led to passage of landmark voting rights legislation nearly sixty years ago. Biden's visit to Selma on Sunday also presents an opportunity to speak directly to the current generation of activists. Many feel dejected because Biden has been unable to make good on a campaign pledge to bolster voting rights and are eager to see his administration keep the issue in the spotlight.

White House officials say Biden intends to use his remarks to underscore the importance of commemorating Bloody Sunday so that history can't be erased, while making the case that the fight for voting rights remains integral to delivering economic justice and civil rights for Black Americans. This year's commemoration also comes as the historic city of roughly eighteen thousand is still digging out from the aftermath of a January EF-2 tornado that destroyed or damaged thousands of properties in and around Selma.

Few moments have had as lasting importance to the civil rights movement as what happened on March 7, 1965, in Selma and in the weeks that followed. Some 600 peaceful demonstrators led by Lewis and Williams had gathered that day, just weeks after the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by an Alabama trooper. The images of the police violence sparked outrage across the country. Days later, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led what became known as the "Turnaround Tuesday" march, in which marchers approached a wall of police at the bridge and prayed before turning back. President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eight days after Bloody Sunday, calling Selma one those rare moments in American history where "history and fate meet at a single time." On March 21, King began a third march, under federal protection, that grew by thousands by the time they arrived at the state capital. Five months later, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

The Alabama Public Radio news team produced an international award-winning documentary on the fiftieth anniversary of “bloody Sunday” titled “More Bridges to Cross.” This was the first of APR’s award winning program to feature a segment produced by an APR student intern.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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