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Blugolds to join 'Bloody Sunday' 50th anniversary events in Selma

| Denise Olson

UW-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff members will be among the thousands of people in Selma, Alabama, this weekend who will walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," a critical event in the country's civil rights movement. 

It was March 7, 1965, when some 600 people began a 54-mile walk that was to take them along a highway from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, a journey intended to show the determination of black Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. After walking just a few blocks, when the marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas. Images of the attack were broadcast and printed around the world. With hundreds of marchers left bloodied and beaten, the March 7, 1965, event was given the nickname "Bloody Sunday." Days after the brutal attack, thousands of people of all races gathered in Selma to join in two additional marches, efforts that helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Faculty, staff and students are recognizing the "Bloody Sunday" anniversary in the following ways: 

  • Jodi Thesing-Ritter, who mentors the students who organize the university's Civil Rights Pilgrimage twice a year, will travel with students later this week to Selma, where they will join thousands of people from across the country —including Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush and Carter —as they walk across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. 
  • Jan Larson, an associate professor of communication and journalism, is taking a small student reporting team down to Selma from March 3-10. This is another phase in her Civil Conversations work documenting lives and experiences of the civil rights movement's everyday foot soldiers. Larson and her students were invited by the coordinators of the Foot Soldiers' Reunion breakfast to cover the breakfast panel and conduct interviews with former activists who will be there for the weekend march. The reporting team plans to cover the breakfast, the congressional delegation march, the Sunday anniversary march and the beginning of the re-enactment of the march from Selma to Montgomery on Monday, March 9. The students going with Larson are: Nick Erickson, Courtney Kueppers, Elyssa Larson, Breane Lyga and Raina Beutel. You can follow their journey through their blog.
  • Heidi Giacalone, a student photographer who traveled with the Civil Rights Pilgrimage in January, will return to Selma this weekend for the anniversary. Her images will be featured at the Local Store in downtown Eau Claire Oct. 22 as part of UW-Eau Claire's month-long tribute to the civil rights movement.
  • In January, 70-plus UW-Eau Claire students who were in Selma as part of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage walked over the historic bridge and met with people who were among the marchers 50 years ago. Students say the experience left them uneasy but also inspired to do more to change the world for the better. You can find their story online. 
  • Selma is a significant stop on UW-Eau Claire's Civil Rights Pilgrimage, a student-led program offered every spring break and Winterim. Now in its seventh year, the pilgrimage immerses students in the sites of historic importance to the civil rights movement and introduces people who were part of the movement. Later this month, during spring break, 108 students will travel with four members of the UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff to Selma and other historic locations as part of the Civil Rights Pilgrimage. 

For details about the Civil Rights Pilgrimage or this week's travels to Selma, contact Jodi Thesing-Ritter at thesinjm@uwec.edu

To talk about a communication and journalism project that will take students to Selma later this week, contact Jan Larson at larsoja@uwec.edu