The American civil rights movement had several nonviolent moments such as Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, and another took place fifty years ago this month in Selma, Alabama.They have been captured on film as it happened and dramatized on film over the decades because they transformed America. Which leads to an obvious question: What is a nonviolent moment? The MettaCenter reproduces the definition originated by Yehudhah Mirsky of a nonviolent moment:
[A] climactic event in a campaign when all of the resistors’ forces are pitted against all of the oppressor’s forces in an open confrontation. The oppressor has two choices: escalate the oppression in a way that is repugnant to the rest of humanity, or back down and concede. Historical examples include the Dharasana Salt Raid during India’s anti-colonial struggle, the EDSA confrontation during the Philippines People Power movement, and Dr. King’s Selma march.The Library of Congress described one of the first flashpoints in the Selma conflict began on March 7, 1965 with John Lewis and Hosea Williams leading marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that became known as Bloody Sunday:
On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by an state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.Thanks to press on hand the world saw in video and photographs the brutality visited upon nonviolent demonstrators that day who maintained their nonviolent discipline in spite of the brutal attacks on them by the local authorities in Selma. It would lead through a protracted struggle into a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25, 1965 led by Martin Luther King Jr. and would serve to usher in the 1965 Voting Rights Act for African Americans in the United States signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 5, 1965. Fifty years later Congressman John Lewis would meet with Cuban dissidents currently engaged in civil disobedience in Cuba inspired by his struggle half a century ago. The positive fruits of nonviolence knows no bounds.
Below is a playlist of videos beginning with John Lewis's reflection on Selma at 50 which he uploaded on March 3, 2015. This is followed from video footage of the protests, marches and repression from a half century ago.