-Department of justice files first voting rights lawsuit-no noticeable effect



Department of justice files second voting rights lawsuit-no noticeable effect

Sep 1963

Sep 1963

Birmingham-Church bombing causes great discontent. Diane Nash Bevel calls for a “Proposal for Action in Montgomery” which required of a non-violent army (20-40,000) to engage in a massive demonstration of public disobedience.

October 1963

October 1963

SCLC meeting, the proposal for “The Alabama project” is raised. Support builds but no set date is compromised. A “march” to Montgomery is put as a plan and it also draws support.

November 1963

November 1963

the assassination of Kennedy puts off SCLC plans. Bevel raises the proposal again with the added part of petitioning to Congress to reduce the number of Alabama representatives in the house. SCLC supports but targets Birmingham rather than Montgomery.



civil rights act passed. Bevel raises the proposal again arguing that the time to move on voting rights has come and the only way is to move onto the streets. The main focus is Selma, Alabama. Defying Judge Hare’s injunction is a key part in showing that the SCLC is serious about voting rights in Selma.

Spring 1964

march 1964

the presidential campaigns gain ground on defending state’s rights. Some northern liberals and conservative Black leaders call for a "moratorium" on all forms of direct action until after the November elections.

SCLC decides in late spring to maintain pressure on Congress by throwing most of its strength into reinforcing the on-going anti-segregation campaign in St. Augustine, FL.
SCLC starts organizing in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa but the main effort is not concentrated in those cities.


18 Jan 1965

300 march out of the church for voting rights in Selma. This is the first action since the injunction. They are denied, and law enforcement calls the march a parade without a permit.

Jan 19, 1965

19 Jan 1965

The marchers return to the courthouse, refusing the orders of law enforcement to wait in the back alley. Protestors are met with violece. People are cattle proded.

Jan 20, 1965

20 Jan 1965

March to the courthouse AGAIN, but this time seqentually. By the end of the day 225 are incarcerated.

Jan 22, 1965

22 jan 1965

Teachers march, dressed in their best, for voter registration-risk loosing job.

Jan 22-24, 1965

24 jan 1965

Over the weekend (January 22-24) Federal district Judge Thomas rules that Sheriff Clark is permitted to continue forcing black voter applicants to line up in the alley, up to a limit of 100.

Jan 25, 1965

25 jan 1965

Dr. King leads marchers to the courthouse where the begin to line up two-by-two in the alley

They reach numbers in excess of 250
Sheriff Clark orders all marchers in excess of 100 disperse

Willie McRae of SNCC disputes this and is immediately arrested, he goes limp and is dragged off
Some of the applicants in line try to see what is going on and Sheriff Clark responds by shoving them back into line
One of those people is Annie Lee Cooper, a 54 year old woman who was fired from her job two years ago when she first tried to register and vote
When Sheriff Clark twists Cooper’s arm and tries to force her back into line, she slugs him with her first, driving the sheriff to her knees.
Cooper continues to hit him as deputes rush to the Sheriff’s aid, restraining her and pinning her to the ground.
Sheriff Clark strikes Cooper in the head with his club, giving her a concussion.
Though attacking Clark is a violation of the nonviolent approach advocated for, no one in the Freedom Movement holds Cooper’s actions against her

Most are familiar with her struggle and personal commitment and applaud her standing up to the hated sheriff

The savage retaliation she receives however makes it clear why the nonviolent approach is the best however.
Rev. Anderson praises Cooper, “Who took a beating today for your and for me”
SCLC leader James Bevel stresses the point that no matter how justified, violence on behalf of demonstrators weakens the movement because “Then the press don’t talk about the registration. We want the world to know they aint registering nobody!”