Chicagoans head south to re-enact historic march in Selma, Alabama

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WLS) -- This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama. Busloads of Chicagoans have traveled south to participate in a reenactment of that historic event.

A Congressional caravan rolled into Birmingham to kick off this memorial weekend. It was the bombing of a church here and the deaths of four little girls that jumpstarted the voting rights movement. Veteran congressman John Lewis was there then, and now.

"It is good to come back here. To be inspired, to reflect, and say to our nation: we made progress, we've come a distance, but there's more progress to be made," said Rep. Lewis (D-Georgia).

Among the many congressmen here in Birmingham, Illinois' Rep. Robin Kelly, who said this 50th anniversary of the Selma march is particularly important in today's political climate.

"Well we have lost some ground, and when we get back, we need to address what we have lost," said Rep. Kelly (D-Illinois). "That's why I brought my daughter here, you know to make sure that she has a full understanding of the sacrifices that people made."

Chicagoans by the busload also started this historic weekend at the church and the Birmingham civil rights museum. Many of them are students anxious to witness living history.

"It's important to be part of history and not forget it, because we want to continue moving forward and continue in our community to develop and grow as people," said Melissa Lugo, a student.

"I didn't realize how ignorant I was on my own history until probably this year, my junior year of high school. So I'm just trying to slowly build up and learn more about myself," said Aleigha Mayo, a student.

On Saturday, everyone will move to Selma, when at least 100,000 people are expected to hear President Obama speak at the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Stay tuned to ABC7 Eyewitness News throughout the weekend as Hosea Sanders reports live from Selma.

HISTORIC PHOTOS: 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches


President Barack Obama said Friday that the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma to secure voting rights for black Americans is about today's youth.

In 1965, Civil Rights activists were met with tear gas and beatings by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. About 100,000 people are expected in Selma this weekend.

"Selma is not just about commemorating the past, it's about honoring the legends who helped change this country through your actions today, in the here and now," Obama said at a town hall meeting at South Carolina's Benedict College. "Selma is now. It's about ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they feel they can shape the destiny of the country."

Obama will be joined by the former Pres. George W. Bush in Selma on Saturday.

Told to go home in 1956, the group marched on. United by a cause, they were undeterred by threats of violence. Their efforts were met with tear gas and beatings. Eighty-four people were injured in what would be known as Bloody Sunday.

"It was young people who stubbornly insisted on justice, stubbornly refused to accept the world as it is that transformed not just the country but transformed the world," Obama said.

Civil Rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson said fighting for voting rights carries on with the Supreme Court decision to strike down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"We got the right to vote in 1965 and it was protected until 2013. Now it's unprotected again," he said.

Last week, residents of Selma gathered on the Montgomery side of the bridge and marched in the opposite direction.

"I think it's really important that people see the progress that's been made in this great city. You know, there's a lot of unfinished business but white Selma, black Selma, young, old, we're all united in loving our city," Congresswoman Terri Sewell, (D) Alabama, said.
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