Obama to headline voting rights march commemoration in Selma
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address next month at the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee that commemorates the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, organizers said Tuesday.
Obama, a Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois who is black, is scheduled to speak at a March 4 service at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, the site in Selma where marchers gathered in the historic protest that gave blacks across the South greater access to the ballot.
Several dozen other members of Congress plan to attend, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev, said Sam Walker, an event coordinator with the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, which sponsors the commemoration.
"I'm looking forward to giving my fellow Alabamians an opportunity to see firsthand the intelligence, vitality and leadership skills that I have recognized in Barack Obama for the last 17 years," said Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham.
Obama and Davis, who also is black and whose district includes Selma, met while attending Harvard Law School. Davis, who plans to hold a fundraiser in Alabama for the Democratic candidate, asked Obama to participate in the Selma event.
The 1965 march helped spark passage of the Voting Rights Act, which allowed blacks to register across the South without the obstacles used by segregationists to limit their access to polling places.
Club-swinging troopers and deputies beat and turned back marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma on March 7, 1965, an attack that became known as "Bloody Sunday" and helped galvanize national support for the voting rights movement. With a federal court order clearing the way, the march to Montgomery was completed later that month.
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