Oprah, Other 'Selma' Actors Join March in Alabama on Eve of Martin Luther King Day


Oprah Winfrey and fellow "Selma" actors led hundreds of others in a march toward Selma, Alabama's Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights activists calling for voting rights for the African-American community were beaten bloody and tear-gassed nearly half a decade ago.

Winfrey, who produced and played activist Annie Lee Cooper in the movie "Selma," marched with director Ava DuVernay, actor David Oyelowo, who plays King in the movie, and rapper Common, who won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Song for "Glory," from the movie's soundtrack.

On March 7, 1965, state troopers brutally beat and tear-gassed protesters who were intent to march the 50 miles from the city of Selma to the state capital of Montgomery to demand the right for African-Americans to vote when they reached the bridge.

Two weeks later, on March 21, a new crowd gathered by King successfully marched to the state capitol in Montgomery to seek black voting rights. More than 25,000 people joined the march.

On Aug. 6 of that same year, Pres. Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which expressly prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

"Every single person who was on that bridge is a hero," Winfrey told the marchers as they were nearing the bridge over the Alabama River. She said the marchers remember "Martin Luther King as an idea, Selma as an idea and what can happen with strategy, with discipline, and with love."

"The idea is that hope and possibility is real," Winfrey said. "Look at what they were able to do with so little, and look at how we now have so much. If they could do that, imagine what now can be accomplished with the opportunity through social media and connection, the opportunity through understanding that absolutely we are more alike than we are different."  

Common performed "Glory" with John Legend as the marchers settled on top of the bridge. Onlookers carried signs that said "March On" and "VOTE."

Lynda Blackmon Lowery was one of the people who marched with Winfrey. Lowery was 14, the youngest person who joined the march that ended in a brutality on Edmund Pettus Bridge. The 64-year-old grandmother still has the scar on the back of her head to show for it.

"It was terrifying," Lowery said of her experience, which she details in her memoir "Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom."

Elsewhere, members of Congress remembered the deaths of unarmed young black men who were shot by police, including the death of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. United States Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat, and eight other members of the Congressional Black Caucus invoked King's legacy on Sunday and promised to seek criminal justice for Brown.

"We need to be outraged when local law enforcement and the justice system repeatedly allow young, unarmed black men to encounter police and then wind up dead with no consequences," Clay said. "Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country. 

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