On Sunday, the last generation of living civil rights leaders and some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are gathering in the small town of Selma, Alabama, to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. The Guardian has tracked down four activists who appeared in archival photographs to find out what happened beyond the camera lens, and whether the promise of Selma has been realized.
At the time of the protests, many southern states used arbitrary “literacy” tests and physical intimidation to keep black Americans from the ballot box. As a result, although African Americans comprised 57% of the population of Dallas county, of which Selma is the county seat, only 2% were registered to vote.
The 54-mile march in early 1965 drew global attention to the brutality of police toward peaceful protesters and led President Lyndon B Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act, a signature achievement of the civil rights era that outlawed voter suppression.
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