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Under the bright spring skies of Sunday morning, March 21, a crowd of 8,000 stood before the twin-towered brick facade of Brown's A.M.E. Chapel in Selma, Alabama. On the steps, an ecumenical service was in progress, the prelude to a historic fifty-mile march from Selma to the state capitol at Montgomery.

"Those of us who are Negroes don't have much because of the system," said Dr. Martin Luther King. "We don't have much education and some of us don't know how to make our nouns and verbs agree. But thank God we have our bodies, our feet, and our souls. We want to present our bodies and feet so the world will know the truth as we see it. We'll march with great love for America, because we have a great faith in democracy.

"Shortly before one o'clock on the fifth day, the marchers, who had come from the grounds of St. Jude's Church and Hospital in Montgomery, now numbering some 25,000, were massed before the white capitol, from the classic dome of which the state and Confederate flags were flying, the U.S. flag being on a separate staff in a corner of the grounds. It was a symbolic picture—the orderly assembly of demonstrators headed by the 300 who for fifty miles had presented their bodies and feet for the cause of freedom, and the capitol, representing the power structure of segregation. In purpose and dramatic context, it was a decisive civil rights demonstration.

At the close of a 2 ½-hour program, King spoke with moving eloquence. "We stand," he said, "with the conviction that segregation is on its deathbed in Alabama. … We're on the move now and no burning churches will deter us.

"At four o'clock the assembly was over. A committee of twenty Alabama residents whose names had been approved by acclamation went to the capitol ...

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January 2000

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