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Selma, fifty years ago

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar• 02•15

This was my Advocate column for March 2015.  

Fifty years ago this month, a group of civil rights protesters met Alabama state and local lawmen on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protesters were beginning a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for African-Americans in Alabama and much of the rest of the South. A recent movie, Selma, has brought new attention to the events surrounding what came to be called “Bloody Sunday,” and no doubt there will be other remembrances of those events in coming weeks.
Advocate editor Rev. McKay Brabham wrote a long and thoughtful piece in the March 18, 1965 Advocate about the events of March 7 and the following days. Here are some excerpts.

“No mistake should be made at this point: The Commission on Religion and Race of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. is every bit the potent pressure group its friends or critics claim that it is. Certainly its impact upon the President of the United States must be recognized as formidable if the Commission is given its share of credit, as it should be, for his presence before the Congress last Monday evening.

“…It was clear from the meeting last Friday in the Lutheran Church of The Reformation that the skilled and dedicated leadership of the commission is committed without question to absolute equality before the law for all people. It is also evident that the Commission’s leaders are equally willing to take the word of Dr. Martin Luther King and those associated with him as to legal or other strategic means for achieving it. The Commission operates under a mandate from the General Board given in 1963, ‘to do everything possible by Christian, non-violent means to work for the achievement of racial justice in the nation.’

“Those Christians who seek to maintain a concern for all of God’s children – of all colors – must reckon with this fact in their efforts to exercise the force of reconciliation in our time. Without an understanding of its emotional impact and its power over men’s minds and wills, they stand to be ready victims of traps such as enmeshed the police of Alabama at Selma when their unleashed brutality provided the springboard for Selma’s dive into world history.

“Selma did provide an occasion for real heroism and spiritual power, according to what we could learn from those who had gone there on Monday and Tuesday, and who shared the fears of the Negro community. The listener did not have to agree with the tactics to appreciate the response of faith on the part of those who felt called to witness in Selma.

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