March 7th, 1965
Bloody Sunday: Civil Rights Protestors Brutally Attacked in Selma
On March 7, 1965, state and local police used billy clubs, whips, and tear gas to attack hundreds of civil rights protesters beginning a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Marchers were protesting the denial of voting rights to African Americans as well as the murder of 26-year-old activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, who had been shot in the stomach and killed during a peaceful protest just days before.
The march, led by John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Reverend Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, turned violent when the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were confronted by a phalanx of state and county officers. When demonstrators did not promptly obey the officers' order to disband and turn back, troopers brutally attacked them. Dozens of civil rights activists were hospitalized with severe injuries. Horrifying images of the violence broadcast nationally on television roused support for the civil rights movement. Civil rights activists organized another march two days later, and the events helped spur passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act three months later.
March 7th, 1842
Maryland Criminalizes Possession of Anti-Slavery Publications
Black resistance to slavery was active and high profile between 1820 and 1839; during this period, Denmark Vesey’s slave revolt was planned and uncovered in South Carolina; Nat Turner’s sixty-person slave revolt was staged in Virginia; the Underground Railroad began operations that would ultimately help more than 75,000 enslaved black escape bondage; and the Amistad slave ship was taken over by the kidnapped Africans onboard. While these events encouraged critical conversations about the inhumanity of slavery and the need for abolition, they also moved lawmakers and other officials in pro-slavery jurisdictions to work harder to suppress abolitionist sentiment.
On March 7, 1842, Maryland’s General Assembly demonstrated a commitment to maintaining slavery and quelling rebellions when it enacted a law prohibiting free “Negroes” and “mulattoes” from possessing any fliers, pamphlets, newspapers, pictorial representations, “or other papers of an inflammatory character.” The law also forbid the receipt of these items through any post office within the state of Maryland. Violation of the law would be a felony, and those declared guilty would face up to twenty years in prison.
To enforce the law, Maryland residents were asked to alert authorities in their respective communities about African Americans that were in possession of the banned abolitionist materials. Citizens of Maryland who failed to report these violations faced a fine of no less than $500 or no less than sixty days imprisonment in a county jail. County courts and the city of Baltimore’s courts were tasked with informing grand juries of the law and charging them with enforcing it when court was in session.