"Wet Marchers Pass Halfway Point" (Alabama Journal, 03/23/65)
Alabama Department of Archives and History: Using Primary Sources in the Classroom
Description: This resource pairs two newspaper articles dealing with African Americans' struggle for voting rights. The article from March 1965 offers a contemporary view of the march from Selma to Montgomery in quest of voting rights for black citizens. One of the most noteworthy quotes in the article comes from former President Harry S. Truman, who opined that the march was "silly," and that "'They can't accomplish a darned thing...All they want is to attract attention.'" Among other issues, students could discuss Truman's statement in light of the fact that he was, in fact, the president who did most to desegregate the United States military forces after World War II. The 10-year retrospective article offers a striking contrast to Truman's judgment that the Selma-Montgomery voting rights march would accomplish nothing. It also gives students a glimpse of contemporary black opinion as to whether the right to vote had led to the political, economic, and social gains for which African Americans had hoped.
"Do Now" Suggestion
- The teacher can put Truman's quote from the 1965 article on the board and ask students to respond to it in their journals. Do the students agree or disagree? How did the Selma March, and the Civil Rights Movement on the whole, change American society? How would the students' lives be different today if the Movement did not happen? Truman excerpt: "Truman, who opined that the march was "silly," and that "'They can't accomplish a darned thing...All they want is to attract attention.'"
- Students can read both articles and complete a Venn Diagram, comparing and contrasting the reports of the march from the two different periods in history.