On this dayFeb 01, 1965

Dr. King and Hundreds of Voting Rights Protestors Arrested

Image | Charles Moore

In early 1965, civil rights groups including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began concentrating on voter registration in Selma, Alabama‚Äďa city with the lowest voter registration record in the state's Black Belt region.

Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark, others in local law enforcement, and county registration employees regularly used violence, discrimination, and intimidation to prevent black residents of Selma from registering to vote. Though African Americans constituted approximately fifty percent of Selma's population in the 1960s, only one to two percent were registered voters.

On February 1, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 250 marchers to the Dallas County Courthouse to register to vote. All of them were arrested during the peaceful demonstration and charged with parading without a permit. In a letter written from the local jail that same night, and later published in the New York Times, Dr. King decried the racist conditions in Selma and observed that "there are more Negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls."

The arrests of Dr. King and the other civil rights activists resulted in protests in which African Americans were injured and killed. Despite these attacks, Dr. King and other civil rights leaders continued their work and organized another voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery the following month.

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