Today, on what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 83rd birthday, we are calling on the next generation to honor the courage of all who stand up for others, by serving their neighbors and making a positive impact in their communities — as part of our Greeks Give Back Challenge.
This LIFE magazine photograph — capturing the historic moment when Archbishop Iakovos joined Martin Luther King, Jr. during the famous civil rights march from Selma, to Montgomery Alabama in March of 1965 — reminds us that everyone can make a difference, and every day is a chance to do so.
Today, on what would have been Dr. King’s 83rd birthday, we are calling on the next generation to honor the courage of all who stand up for others, by serving their neighbors and making a positive impact in their communities — as part of our Greeks Give Back Challenge, a national competition to recognize and reward student achievements in community service.
“THEY CAME FROM EVERYWHERE — clergymen, nuns, students, doctors, plain Americans, Negro and white — to place themselves by Martin Luther King in the streets, to stand against the police of Alabama in the name of human dignity. In the turbulent history of civil rights, never had there been such a widespread reaction to the doctrine of white supremacy… There have been other landmarks in the decades of the Negro’s militancy — at cities like Little Rock and Oxford and Birmingham — but none had the power of Selma in 1965. Here the issue was simple: the right of every citizen to vote. Ironically, Alabama’s inept segregationist Governor George Wallace actually helped the Negroes. It would have cost him little to allow them their peaceful marches. Instead his troopers slashed them down with clubs. At last, this was too much. The nation’s clergy, long hesitant in this area of hunan need, swarmed to Selma. When one was killed, the nation was further inflamed. Even as [the] memorial service… was held at Selma, rallies sprang up all over the country. Though intransigent Alabama made another brutal show of force, the turning point had clearly arrived in the Negro’s cause.”
The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the… peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League. In 1963, the DCVL and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee began voter-registration work. When white resistance to Black voter registration proved intractable, the DCVL requested the assistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to support voting rights.
The first march took place on March 7, 1965 — “Bloody Sunday” — when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback.Televised images of the brutal attack presented people with horrifying images of marchers left bloodied and severely injured, and roused support for the U.S. civil rights movement. Amelia Boynton was beaten and gassed nearly to death; her photo appeared on the front page of newspapers and news magazines around the world.
On March 9th, the following Tuesday, Dr. King led about 2,500 marchers out to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and held a short prayer session before turning the marchers back around, thereby obeying the court order preventing them from marching all the way to Montgomery. That evening, three white ministers who had come for the march were attacked and beaten with clubs. The worst injured was James Reeb, a white Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston. Selma’s public hospital refused to treat Rev. Reeb, who had to be taken to another hospital, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University Hospital with his wife by his side.
On March 21, close to 8,000 people assembled at Brown Chapel to commence the third Selma Civil Rights March. Most of the participants were black, but some were white and some were Asian and Latino. Spiritual leaders of multiple races religions and faith marched abreast with Dr. King… Under the terms of Judge Johnson’s order, the march was limited to no more than 300 participants for the two days they were on the two-lane portion of Highway-80… through Lowndes county… At the time of the march, the population of Lowndes County was 81% black and 19% white, but not a single black was registered to vote. At the same time there were 2,240 whites registered to vote in Lowndes County, a figure that represented 118% of the adult white population (in many southern counties of that era it was common practice to retain white voters on the rolls after they died or moved away).
“The end we seek,” King told the crowd, “is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. … I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long.”
Greeks Give Back links
How to Give Back: Ideas, resources and examples for student projects