By 1965, the civil rights movement under the dynamic leadership of Martin Luther King, was aiming to gain political power through voting rights. • Black people in the South were prevented from voting. • Dr King decided to focus on the town of Selma, Alabama, where a racist sheriff was blocking a campaign for voter registration - you have to be registered to vote so that you can be given the voting slip (piece of paper) that you would use to give your vote.
On 7 March 1965 civil rights demonstrators attempted to march across a bridge near Selma. They planned to walk to Montgomery, the state capitol, to take their protest to the racist Governor of Alabama, George Wallace.
Mr Wallace ordered state troopers, some mounted on horseback, to prevent the march crossing the bridge. As the marchers knelt to pray, the police sprayed tear gas after warning them to disperse.
The police charged into the crowd of demonstrators, clubbing men, women and children indiscriminately and spraying teargas.
The extent of the violence, shown the same day on televison, shocked Americans and the world.
Dr King called for a second march to take place at Selma two weeks later. 25,000 people gathered but this time they were protected by federal troops sent by President Johnson.
It was a huge victory for the civil rights movement. • The events at Selma made the politicians in Washington take action. • LBJ pressed Congress to pass a Voting Rights Act (1965) which finally removed all restrictions against black people voting in the southern states.