On Selma anniversary, Obama says racial progress made but more needed

Sat Mar 7, 2015 7:11pm EST
 
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By Jeff Mason

SELMA, Ala. (Reuters) - With a nod to ongoing U.S. racial tension and threats to voting rights, President Barack Obama declared the work of the Civil Rights Movement advanced but unfinished on Saturday during a visit to the Alabama bridge that spawned a landmark voting law.

Obama, the first black U.S. president, said discrimination by law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Missouri, showed a lot of work needed to be done on race in America, but he warned it was wrong to suggest that progress had not been made.

"Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we're getting closer," Obama said, standing near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and fired tear gas at peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth.

The event became known as "Bloody Sunday" and prompted a follow-up march led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that spurred the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing, but they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office, but they led a nation," Obama said.

"What they did here will reverberate through the ages ... because they proved that nonviolent change is possible."

After his remarks, Obama and his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson joined some of the original marchers along with former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, to walk across the bridge.

The marchers sang songs including "We Shall Overcome" as a crowd of some 40,000 people looked on.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) hold hands with former President George W Bush (R) and former first lady Laura Bush (L) and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) during commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 'Bloody Sunday' historical civil rights march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst