Subsequent Marches and Aftermath
News reports detailing the brutality of the rout interrupted widely-viewed television programming that night, stirring indignation across the country. Martin Luther King, Jr. initiated a second attempt in defiance of a restraining order imposed by Federal District Court Judge Frank Johnson, but ultimately chose to withdraw before the county line in order to avoid more bloodshed, and in hopes that acquiescence would persuade the federal government to support the marchers once the restraining order was lifted. This abbreviated march came to be known as “Turnaround Tuesday.” The murder that night of white Unitarian minister James Reeb, who had traveled to Selma to join the protest, further fueled nationwide outrage.
On March 11, President Johnson spoke to a joint session of Congress, announcing new voting rights legislation. In his speech, which was nationally televised, Johnson explicitly employed the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “...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 Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 17, the same day that Judge Johnson, with support from President Lyndon Johnson, ruled in favor of the protestors, allowing the march to proceed.
Martin Luther King, Jr. ultimately led thousands of marchers (including a still-recovering John Lewis) to Montgomery, protected by the federalized Alabama National Guard, beginning on March 21, 1965.
John Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 representing Georgia’s 5th District. He would be reelected sixteen times, holding the office until his death in 2020.
In 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the ‘65 Voting Rights Act, which required certain states to obtain preclearance from the federal government before making changes to voting procedures and redrawing district maps. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”