Civil rights protesters beaten in “Bloody Sunday” attack

On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ends in violence when marchers are attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day’s events became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The demonstrators—led by civil rights activists John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—were commemorating the recent fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, by state trooper James Bonard Fowler. The group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, police assaulted them with tear gas, bullwhips and billy clubs. Lewis, then 25, was one of 17 marchers hospitalized; dozens more were treated for injuries. 

The violence was broadcast on TV and recounted in newspapers, spurring demonstrations in 80 cities across the nation within days. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke on the need for voting reform, something activists in Selma had long been fighting for: “There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. We have already waited 100 years and more, and the time for waiting is gone.”

King completed the march to Montgomery, along with 25,000 demonstrators, on March 25, under the protection of the U.S. military and the FBI. The route is now a U.S. National Historic Trail. Prodded by what Johnson called “the outrage of Selma,” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law five months later, with the purpose to “right that wrong.” Lewis became a U.S. congressman from Georgia in 1986. 

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

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Martin Luther King, Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery


Year
1965
Month Day
March 21

In the name of African American voting rights, 3,200 civil rights demonstrators in Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., begin a historic march from Selma to Montgomery, the state’s capital. Federalized Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents were on hand to provide safe passage for the march, which twice had been turned back by Alabama state police at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In 1965, King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to make the small town of Selma the focus of their drive to win voting rights for African Americans in the South. Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, was a vocal opponent of the African-American civil rights movement, and local authorities in Selma had consistently thwarted efforts by the Dallas County Voters League and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register local blacks.

Although Governor Wallace promised to prevent it from going forward, on March 7 some 600 demonstrators, led by SCLC leader Hosea Williams and SNCC leader John Lewis, began the 54-mile march to the state capital. After crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by Alabama state troopers and posse men who attacked them with nightsticks, tear gas and whips after they refused to turn back.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Several of the protesters were severely beaten, and others ran for their lives. The incident was captured on national television and outraged many Americans.

King, who was in Atlanta at the time, promised to return to Selma immediately and lead another attempt. On March 9, King led another marching attempt, but turned the marchers around when state troopers again blocked the road.

On March 21, U.S. Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardsmen escorted the marchers across Edmund Pettus Bridge and down Highway 80. When the highway narrowed to two lanes, only 300 marchers were permitted, but thousands more rejoined the Alabama Freedom March as it came into Montgomery on March 25.

On the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, King addressed live television cameras and a crowd of 25,000, just a few hundred feet from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he got his start as a minister in 1954.

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement

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Winston Churchill dies


Year
1965
Month Day
January 24

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, dies in London at the age of 90.

Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving in a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s first lord of the admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war that he foresaw.

In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and he was excluded from the war coalition government. He resigned and volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France. However, in 1917, he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of Nazi and Japanese aggression.

After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill was called back to his post as first lord of the admiralty and eight months later replaced the ineffectual Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that crushed the Axis.

In July 1945, 10 weeks after Germany’s defeat, his Conservative government suffered a defeat against Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, and Churchill resigned as prime minister. He became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches; he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1955, he retired as prime minister but remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Winston Churchill

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Ferdinand Marcos inaugurated president of the Philippines


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Year
1965
Month Day
December 30

Former Philippines Senate president Ferdinand Marcos is inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation. Marcos’ regime would span 20 years and become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.

Ferdinand Marcos was a law student in the late 1930s, when he was tried for the assassination of a political opponent of his politician father. Convicted in 1939, he personally appealed the case before the Philippine Supreme Court and won an acquittal. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, he allegedly served as leader of the Filipino resistance movement, but U.S. government records indicate he played little role in anti-Japanese activities.

In 1949, he was elected to the Philippines House of Representatives, thanks in large part to his fabricated wartime record. In 1959, he moved up to the Senate and from 1963 to 1965 served as Senate president. In 1965, he broke with the Liberal Party after failing to win his party’s presidential nomination and ran as the candidate of the Nationalist Party. After a bitter and decisive campaign, he was elected president. In 1969, he was reelected.

Marcos’ second term was marked by increasing civil strife and violence by leftist insurgents. In 1972, following a series of bombings in Manila, he warned of an imminent communist takeover and declared martial law. In 1973, he assumed dictatorship powers under a new constitution. Marcos used the military to suppress subversive elements but also arrested and jailed his mainstream political opponents. His anti-communist activities won him enthusiastic support from the U.S. government, but his regime was marked by misuse of foreign aid, repression, and political murders. His beauty-queen wife, Imelda Marcos, was appointed to important political posts and lived a famously extravagant lifestyle that included a massive wardrobe featuring thousands of pairs of shoes.

In 1981, Marcos was dubiously reelected president. In rural areas, insurgency by communists and Muslim separatists grew. In 1983, Marcos’ old political opponent Benigno Aquino, Jr., returned from exile and was assassinated by military agents of Marcos as soon as he stepped off the plane. The political murder touched off widespread anti-Marcos protests, and in 1986 he agreed to hold a new presidential election.

Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, ran against Marcos, and on February 7, 1986, the election was held. Marcos was declared victorious, but independent observers charged the regime with widespread electoral fraud. Aquino’s followers proclaimed her president, and much of the military defected to her side as massive anti-Marcos demonstrations were held. On February 25, Marcos, his wife, and their entourage were airlifted from the presidential palace in Manila by U.S. helicopters and fled to Hawaii.

After substantial evidence of Marcos’ corruption emerged, including the looting of billions of dollars from the Philippine economy, Marcos and his wife were indicted by the U.S. government on embezzlement charges. After Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989, Imelda was cleared of the charges, and she was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1991, where she unsuccessfully ran for the presidency the following year. In 1993, Imelda Marcos was convicted of corruption by a Philippine court, but she avoided serving her 12-year prison sentence. In 1995, she was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1998, she unsuccessfully ran for president again.

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Canada adopts maple leaf flag


Year
1965
Month Day
February 15

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. In 1763, as a result of the French and Indian Wars, France lost its sizable colonial possessions in Canada, and the Union Jack flew all across the wide territory of Canada. In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was established as a self-governing federation within the British Empire, and three years later a new flag, the Canadian Red Ensign, was adopted. The Red Ensign was a solid red flag with the Union Jack occupying the upper-left corner and a crest situated in the right portion of the flag.

The search for a new national flag that would better represent an independent Canada began in earnest in 1925 when a committee of the Privy Council began to investigate possible designs. Later, in 1946, a select parliamentary committee was appointed with a similar mandate and examined more than 2,600 submissions. Agreement on a new design was not reached, and it was not until the 1960s, with the centennial of Canadian self-rule approaching, that the Canadian Parliament intensified its efforts to choose a new flag.

In December 1964, Parliament voted to adopt a new design. Canada’s national flag was to be red and white, the official colors of Canada as decided by King George V of Britain in 1921, with a stylized 11-point red maple leaf in its center. Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed February 15, 1965, as the day on which the new flag would be raised over Parliament Hill and adopted by all Canadians.

Today, Canada’s red maple leaf flag is one of the most recognizable national flags in the world.

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Shelby GT 350 debuts


Year
1965
Month Day
January 27

On January 27, 1965, the Shelby GT 350, a version of a Ford Mustang sports car developed by the American auto racer and car designer Carroll Shelby, is launched. The Shelby GT 350, which featured a 306 horsepower V-8 engine, remained in production through the end of the 1960s and today is a valuable collector’s item.

Carroll Shelby was born in Texas in 1923 and gained fame in the racing world in the 1950s. Among his accomplishments was a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959, making him just the second American ever to win the iconic endurance race. By the early 1960s, Shelby had retired from racing for health reasons and was designing high-performance cars. He became known for his race cars, including the Cobra and the Ford GT40, as well as such muscle cars as the Shelby GT 350. According to the New York Times: “In the 60’s, at the apex of the Southern California car efflorescence, his name was synonymous with muscle cars, relatively small vehicles with big, beefy engines. It was an era that many car buffs consider Detroit’s golden age, and Mr. Shelby was arguably its prime mover.”

The Shelby GT 350 was an iteration of the first Ford Mustang, which was officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, on April 17, 1964. That same day, the new car also debuted in Ford showrooms across America and almost 22,000 Mustangs were immediately snapped up by buyers. Named for a World War II fighter plane, the Ford Mustang had a long hood and short rear deck. More than 400,000 Mustangs sold within its first year of production, far exceeding sales expectations. Over the ensuing decades, the Mustang has undergone numerous evolutions and remains in production today, with more than 9 million sold.

In addition to collaborating with Ford, Shelby partnered with other automakers, including Chrysler, for whom he designed the Dodge Viper sports car, which launched in 1992.

The Times in 2003 quoted comedian Jay Leno, an avid car collector who has owned several Shelby cars, as saying: “Carroll is sort of like the car world’s Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays… Unlike so many racers, he didn’t come from a rich family, so he signifies that everyman, common-sense ideal. When I was kid, American cars were big, clunky things, until Carroll used his ingenuity to make them compete with European cars. He was a populist, the kind of guy that other car buffs could emulate.”

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Malcolm X assassinated


Year
1965
Month Day
February 21

February 21, 1965: In New York City, Malcolm X, an African American nationalist and religious leader, is assassinated by rival Black Muslims while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm was the son of James Earl Little, a Baptist preacher who advocated the black nationalist ideals of Marcus Garvey. Threats from the Ku Klux Klan forced the family to move to Lansing, Michigan, where his father continued to preach his controversial sermons despite continuing threats. In 1931, Malcolm’s father was brutally murdered by the white supremacist Black Legion, and Michigan authorities refused to prosecute those responsible. In 1937, Malcolm was taken from his family by welfare caseworkers. By the time he reached high school age, he had dropped out of school and moved to Boston, where he became increasingly involved in criminal activities.

In 1946, at the age of 21, Malcolm was sent to prison on a burglary conviction. It was there he encountered the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, whose members are popularly known as Black Muslims. The Nation of Islam advocated black nationalism and racial separatism and condemned Americans of European descent as immoral “devils.” Muhammad’s teachings had a strong effect on Malcolm, who entered into an intense program of self-education and took the last name “X” to symbolize his stolen African identity.

READ MORE: The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography

After six years, Malcolm was released from prison and became a loyal and effective minister of the Nation of Islam in Harlem, New York. In contrast with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X advocated self-defense and the liberation of African Americans “by any means necessary.” A fiery orator, Malcolm was admired by the African American community in New York and around the country.

In the early 1960s, he began to develop a more outspoken philosophy than that of Elijah Muhammad, whom he felt did not sufficiently support the civil rights movement. In late 1963, Malcolm’s suggestion that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a matter of the “chickens coming home to roost” provided Elijah Muhammad, who believed that Malcolm had become too powerful, with a convenient opportunity to suspend him from the Nation of Islam.

A few months later, Malcolm formally left the organization and made a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was profoundly affected by the lack of racial discord among orthodox Muslims. He returned to America as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and in June 1964 founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and held that racism, not the white race, was the greatest foe of the African American. Malcolm’s new movement steadily gained followers, and his more moderate philosophy became increasingly influential in the civil rights movement, especially among the leaders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About Malcolm X

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LBJ sends federal troops to Alabama to protect a civil rights march


Year
1965
Month Day
March 20

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper.

In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

After an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that a third march could go ahead, President Johnson and his advisers worked quickly to find a way to ensure the safety of King and his demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery. The most powerful obstacle in their way was Governor Wallace, an outspoken segregationist who was reluctant to spend any state funds on protecting the demonstrators. Hours after promising Johnson—in telephone calls recorded by the White House—that he would call out the Alabama National Guard to maintain order, Wallace went on television and demanded that Johnson send in federal troops instead.

Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops.

Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace—and Johnson’s decisive action—was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.

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LBJ calls for equal voting rights


Year
1965
Month Day
March 15

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.

Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declares that “every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.” Johnson reminds the nation that the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War, gave all citizens the right to vote regardless of race or color. But states had defied the Constitution and erected barriers. Discrimination had taken the form of literacy, knowledge or character tests administered solely to African-Americans to keep them from registering to vote.

“Their cause must be our cause too,”Johnson said. “Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

The speech was delivered eight days after racial violence erupted in Selma, Alabama. Civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King and over 500 supporters were attacked while planning a march from Selma to Montgomery to register African Americans to vote. The police violence that erupted resulted in the death of a King supporter, a white Unitarian Minister from Boston named James J. Reeb. Television news coverage of the event galvanized voting rights supporters in Congress.

A second attempt to march to Montgomery was also blocked by police. It took Federal intervention with the “federalizing” of the Alabama national guard and the addition of over 2,000 other guards to allow the march to begin.

The march to Montgomery finally began March 21 with over 3,000 participants under the glare of worldwide news publicity.

The violence, however, continued. Just after the march was successfully completed on March 25, four Klansman shot and killed Detroit homemaker Viola Liuzzo as she drove marchers back to Selma.

On August 6, 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which made it illegal to impose restrictions on federal, state and local elections that were designed to deny the vote to blacks.

While state and local enforcement of the act was initially weak, mainly in the South, the Voting Rights Act gave African-American voters the legal means to challenge voting restrictions and vastly improved voter turnout. In Mississippi alone, voter turnout among blacks increased from 6 percent in 1964 to 59 percent in 1969.

In 1970, President Richard Nixon extended the provisions of the Voting Rights Act and lowered the eligible voting age for all voters to 18.

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U.S. sends first combat troops to South Vietnam


Year
1965
Month Day
February 09

A U.S. Marine Corps Hawk air defense missile battalion is deployed to Da Nang. President Johnson had ordered this deployment to provide protection for the key U.S. airbase there.

This was the first commitment of American combat troops in South Vietnam and there was considerable reaction around the world to the new stage of U.S. involvement in the war. Predictably, both communist China and the Soviet Union threatened to intervene if the United States continued to apply its military might on behalf of the South Vietnamese. In Moscow, some 2,000 demonstrators, led by Vietnamese and Chinese students and clearly supported by the authorities, attacked the U.S. Embassy. Britain and Australia supported the U.S. action, but France called for negotiations.

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