Collins To Participate In Bipartisan Civil Rights Pilgrimage To Selma, Alabama

ORONO, Maine – At this morning’s 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast, sponsored by the University of Maine and the Greater Bangor NAACP, Senator Susan Collins announced today that she will travel to Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” to participate in the Bipartisan Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. The trip will commemorate the famous civil rights march that led to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Senator Collins was invited by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), the first African-American Senator elected from the south since 1881, and the bipartisan delegation will be led by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who participated in the original Selma March in 1965.
The commemoration will take place March 6-8, 2015 in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and will involve visits to historic sites and church services.
During this morning’s event, Senator Collins delivered the following remarks in honor of Martin Luther King Day:
“It is a pleasure to join with you this morning to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this 50th anniversary of the historic Selma March, Dr. King’s dream of justice and equality for all Americans marches on.
“What is known today as the Selma March was actually a three-stage battle between hatred and humanity. It began on “Bloody Sunday” -- March 7, 1965 – when the Reverend Hosea Williams and a young civil rights activist named John Lewis led a group of 600 toward the Alabama capital of Montgomery to protest racial discrimination in voting. After just six blocks, they were met on the now infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge by state and local police and attacked with clubs and tear gas.
“Two days later, Dr. King led a symbolic march to the bridge. Approximately 3,200 marchers set out again from Selma on March 21. By the time they reached Montgomery five days and 54 miles later, their number had grown to more than 25,000. Within five months, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law, the perfect tribute to the courage and conviction of so many.
“I have an exciting announcement to make. This March, I will travel to Selma as a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage. I will have the honor to march and stand alongside that same John Lewis -- now Congressman John Lewis – and with Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American Senator elected from the South since 1881. We will stand on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. That notorious bridge, named for a Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, is now a National Historic Landmark.
“2015 is the 60th anniversary of two notable mileposts in the march to justice. In 1955, a tired seamstress refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. Rosa Parks, however, was not tired from working. She was tired of racism and segregation. The bus boycott, inspired by this brave woman and led by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., helped bring to an end the Jim Crow laws that made daily life in the South so demeaning for so many.
“In the summer of that year, Emmett Till was a fun-loving African-American youngster, just past his 14th birthday, who was visiting family in Mississippi. His brutal murder was followed by a gross miscarriage of justice that allowed his murderers to go free.
“Emmett Till’s death helped to awaken America. When his mutilated body was returned home to Chicago, his mother made the courageous decision to hold a public funeral service with an open casket so that all Americans would see the horror spawned by hatred. The marches, protests, and legislation that followed were a peaceful and powerful response to an act of utter savagery.
“This past November, I sponsored the planting of a tree on the Capitol Grounds in the memory of Emmett Till. This living memorial was inspired by the efforts of Janet Langhart Cohen, the African-American author who is married to one of my inspirations in public service, Bangor’s own Senator Bill Cohen.
“There could be no more powerful symbols of the spirit of this day than a bridge and a tree, for we all are on a journey of growth. As we walk together, and as we plant and nurture together, we strengthen our shared commitment to a future of greater understanding, reconciliation, and justice.”