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The Road From Selma to Montgomery, Revisited

Taking an emotional trip with civil rights icons and their loved ones, 45 years after the marches that spurred equal voting rights.

On Pettus Bridge: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Winnie Mandela (M. Eversley)

On March 7, 1965, 600 people headed east out of Selma, Ala., to demand equal voting rights for African Americans. They didn't get far—only six blocks—to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. There, state and local law enforcement attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. John Lewis, then a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (now a congressman from Georgia), was among them and suffered a cracked skull. The marchers were driven back into Selma. From then on, the incident was called “Bloody Sunday.”

Two days later, Martin Luther King Jr. led a symbolic march to the Pettus bridge. Then, on March 21, about 3,200 people set out from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital, to demand voting rights. By the time they reached Montgomery on March 25, there were 25,000 of them. Less than five months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I joined a road trip to commemorate the 45th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," civil rights martyrs, and the series of Selma-to-Montgomery Marches. Called the Evelyn Gibson Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, it was hosted by the wife of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) chairman emeritus, Rev. Joseph Lowery. Winnie Mandela, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Lewis and actor Terrence Howard were among those who joined the commemoration.

This is a diary of my journey to Selma.

Saturday, March 6, 2010, 7:20 a.m.