At First Glance

At First Glance

When the Selma crisis began, 20 years ago this spring, the country was ready for it. Before Selma there had been the Woolworth sit-ins, the freedom rides, and in 1964 the Mississippi Summer Project. By the time Selma began, the “Southern Way of Life” had lost credibility. When Alabama state troopers attacked a column of black marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, one did not ask why the marchers failed to turn back as they were ordered. Even the deaths at Selma—first Jimmie Lee Jackson, then James Reeb, then Viola Liuzzo—brought with them a sense of dela vu. Six months earlier there had been James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

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Lima