'A Proud Walk': 3 Voices On The March From Selma To Montgomery : Code Switch Following the Bloody Sunday crackdown in Selma, Ala., Martin Luther King Jr. called for support across the U.S. People of different races and religions flocked to the state. Three of them look back.
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'A Proud Walk': 3 Voices On The March From Selma To Montgomery

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'A Proud Walk': 3 Voices On The March From Selma To Montgomery

'A Proud Walk': 3 Voices On The March From Selma To Montgomery

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Civil rights protesters left Selma, Ala. 50 years ago, aiming to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and a march to Montgomery. It was their third attempt. That successful march started two weeks after a violent confrontation on what came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Following that brutal crackdown by police, Martin Luther King called for support from religious leaders across the country. People of different races and religions flocked to Alabama. And now we're going to hear three people who answered that call.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Get on board. Children, children, get on board. Children, children, get on board, children, children, and let's fight for human rights.

TODD ENDO: My name is Todd Endo. I am Japanese-American. And I was born right after Pearl Harbor. From the ages of about 1 to almost 4, my family, along with a hundred-thousand other Japanese, were removed by the federal government because we were Japanese-Americans, not because we had done anything. The specific reason that I went to Selma is that an acquaintance of mine was killed. The summer before, I had worked in Washington, D.C. for three churches, one of which was All Souls Unitarian. And at that point, Jim Reeb was an assistant minister. Turnaround Tuesday was the march that Jim Reeb participated in, which was two days after Bloody Sunday. That evening, he was clubbed in the head coming out of a restaurant and died. And I went two or three days after that. My only specific memory is that there were very few, and I never saw another Asian-American. I think about half of the marchers in '65 were Selma residents. And the women that marched on either side of me were Selma residents, veterans of this movement. So one of them is sort of like the Oprah Winfrey character in the movie, where she says, you know, I've tried to register 16 times. I've been turned down 16 times. And I'm going to keep trying to register. And the other one, on the right side, said that she had been in Bloody Sunday and had been in a lot of marches and was going to continue. I was in graduate school, so I went back, actually. And the heroes to me were those two women and others who couldn't leave - or didn't leave. They were residents of the town, and they stayed. And they kept marching.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) We shall overcome...

RABBI HERBERT DAVID TEITELBAUM: I'm Rabbi Herbert David Teitelbaum. I was with the Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, Calif. When we arrived, as you approach the colored section of Selma, immediately you have the feeling that you're in a besieged city. And I recall the words of the minister, Earl Neil, who said something that impressed me very deeply. He said, the very fact that you've come here means that your skin is as black as mine. And for the first time in my life, I actually experienced the humiliation and the degradation which was the lot of the African-American. When we got ready for the march, I was very impressed with King's speech that day. And one of the things he said - taken directly from the book of Exodus - he said, we are like the children of Israel marching from slavery to freedom. And then, when the march began, we were told, you know, to walk four abreast and then two abreast. At first, I was walking with a young man. And later on, I changed and walked with a young woman. And it was an exhilarating experience. We ended up at a farm where there was a huge circus tent. And I walked over to one of the corners of the tent, and there, to my surprise, was Martin Luther King. We shook hands. He said, thank you very much for coming; God bless you. And that, of course, was a very high moment for me. And at the end of the first day's march, I think we marched maybe eight miles. It was announced that the road narrowed and could only accommodate about 300 people. So some of us had to go back to Selma.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO USE")

LARNELL STARKEY: (Singing) It ain't no use.

THE SPIRITUAL SEVEN GOSPEL SINGERS: (Singing) Nobody trying to turn me around.

KATHY MUELLER: I'm Kathy Mueller. I had been involved in civil rights locally, in Wilmington, Del., which is where I'm from. We got to Montgomery first. We never went into Selma. And once we got there, we rented a car. And it was a harry drive. People did in fact try to drive the car off of the road because we were blacks and whites in the same car. So we knew it was not a very welcoming place. And so we went out into a black neighborhood, knew the route they were coming in, sat on somebody's front wall. Then, the people just started coming past. And you could identify the ones who had marched the entire 50 miles because they had vests on. By then, other people had joined in. And as they were passing us, the people were saying, come and join us; come and join us. And it was a sauntering walk. It was a proud walk and just kind of, look at me. I'm here. I made it. I'm part of something. I have a picture of James Farmer with Harry Belafonte and A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and the people that you're reading about in the paper. It was really kind of, wow, I'm here - a feeling that you really didn't want to leave. And I remember when I came home and my older sister, who was just 14 months older than I, she said, thank you for going. You represented all of us who couldn't go.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Get on board. Children, children, get on board. Children, children, get on board...

INSKEEP: That's Kathy Mueller, a white women who travelled with a Catholic group from Delaware to join marchers as they arrived in Montgomery, Ala. in 1965. We also heard from Todd Endo, a Japanese-American and Rabbi Herbert David Teitelbaum, voices from the coalition of Americans on the march from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago.

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