SELMA, Ala. - Thousands are flocking to Selma, Alabama this weekend for the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” assault on voting rights activists.
Pres. Barack Obama and surviving marchers plan to commemorate the historic event.
Close to 100,000 people are expected to reenact the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge Saturday.
Some of the visitors include local students from Atlanta Public Schools.
Four packed buses filled with dozens of Atlanta Public Schools students left for Selma. Before getting to Selma, buses will stop in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Marion, Alabama.
The students will get to live what they've been learning about during the re-enactment of the historic march for black voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen grew up in Selma and is excited to have some of her students attend the march re-enactment.
"I hope if it's not too chaotic to try to take 'em around the town," said Carstarphen. "Show them where I was able to grow up, and kind of what my perspective was at the time."
Original Marchers Remember Violent Beatings
50 years ago, many African-Americans including a young John Lewis crossed the bridge. The group was beaten for trying to vote.
Jim Benston tells Channel 2's Dave Huddleston he was at the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago.
"We knew we were going to be beaten, we didn't know it was going to be that bad," said Benston. "When they said 'trooper advance,' they came at us with the clubs."
Benston says he knew what happened to him and others like Congressman John Lewis would change the country.
"There are times in history when there's a turning point, and you create a new world," said Benston. "That's what we did right here on the bridge."
Vickye Armstrong of LaGrange traveled to Selma, and crossed the bridge. She says she did it to answer one question.
"If I was in the 1960s, would I have the courage to take those steps or would I turn around," Armstrong said. She didn't have an answer.
For some students, the ghosts of Bloody Sunday linger on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Xavier Prince said, "You can feel it, the sadness on it."
Activists: Fight For Voting Rights Isn’t Over
Only Channel 2 Action News talked with Martin Luther King the Third about why he says the fight for voting rights is more important now, than ever.
At an award banquet honoring civil rights leaders, King told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston if his father was alive, he would not be pleased with how the U.S. Supreme Court has changed voting laws.
"I know he would be greatly disappointed that the courts chose to decimate the Voting Rights Act, but he would challenge us always in a constructive way,” King said.
Along with the King children, civil rights icons like Jesse Jackson and Pres. Lyndon Johnson's daughters attended the banquet.
"We have so many people of color who are making this a much richer vibrant country,” said Lynda Bird Johnson Robb.
Luci Baines Johnson told Huddleston, she was there when her father signed the 1965 Voting Rights Bill into law.
"As a young woman I knew, I was being an eyewitness to history,” said Luci Baines Johnson.