Cleveland remembers "Bloody Sunday" 50 years later - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cleveland remembers "Bloody Sunday" 50 years later

"Bloody Sunday" (Source: WOIO) "Bloody Sunday" (Source: WOIO)
"Bloody Sunday" (Source: WOIO) "Bloody Sunday" (Source: WOIO)
It's been 50 years since "Bloody Sunday," the confrontation at the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. How does what happened then affect young people's thoughts on that part of American history?

"The Civil Rights Movement really has been the catalyst for the rise of African Americans in this country," said Rev. Emmitt Theophilus Caviness.

Part of the civil rights struggle for full citizenship included protestors, mostly black, ultimately crossing the infamous Edmond Pettus Bridge demanding voting rights. They were beaten by police but not deterred by the brutality. 

"When you read in a textbook, what was going on, you don't necessarily get the real feel for it," said Shaker Heights High School 11th grader Amani Hill.

50 years have passed since March 7th, 1965. Hill lives in a different America, but with some of the same vestiges of racism.

Hill and senior Louie Sequin are members of the Student Group on Race Relations at their school.

"Because we live in such a diverse community people tend to assume that there are no more issues, that race issues are kind of a thing of the past. A lot of the kids think this," said Sequin.

Few can deny change has taken place and that things are better. But it took a long, often deadly fight for blacks to achieve. A few years after the Selma to Montgomery march historic change came to Cleveland.

"There was a new sense of power at city hall which they had never had before. So, Carl really, I think opened the door for the emergence of the African American politics," said Joe Rice.

Rice was a political writer for The Cleveland Press in those days. He and Reverend Caviness, pastor the Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church on Cleveland's east side, remember the tense times following the Hough Riots and the election of Carl B. Stokes as mayor of Cleveland.

"We outlined the way you achieve progress, patient understanding," said Rev. Caviness.

That's the track the Student Group on Race Relations is taking: teaching youth how to get along.

"I would hope that we can nurture a new environment in which opportunity is available to everybody and where we can recognize racial issues and it's not just a tense topic to avoid," said Hill.

In March of 1965, Selma, Alabama exploded in violence amid high stakes political posturing. That all led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Like many American cities, Cleveland was certainly impacted by the Selma marches.

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