March 7, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of what has become known as Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when hundreds of civil rights activists in Selma, Alabama, attempted to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge—and were brutally attacked by state and local law enforcement. Two weeks later, movement leaders secured court protection for a full-scale march back across the bridge, all the way from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. These actions, undertaken at great risk, created pressure that helped spur passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This weekend a diverse delegation (including President Barack Obama; First Lady Michelle Obama; and John Lewis, who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 and has served in congress since 1987) will gather in Selma to commemorate the bravery of the people who crossed the bridge, facing unconscionable violence in the name of justice. Their courage led to tremendous change. But the work of the civil rights movement is unfinished, and we cannot allow the hard-won victories of decades past to be rolled back.

The Ford Foundation has a proud history of working on civil rights, partnering with many of the organizations and allies who were on the ground in Selma 50 years ago and who are gathering there this weekend to strategize and reflect. They worked with us to build the litigation field of organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, taking civil rights battles to the courts and securing the rights so many had worked so hard to achieve. A delegation from the foundation, including President Darren Walker, will take part in the events in Selma this weekend.

We are inspired by the struggle and sacrifice of the civil rights pioneers, and invigorated by the passion of the next generation of activists, who are bringing fresh strategies and tactics to a renewed movement for social change. We stand with them, our eyes on the next bridges to be crossed.

 

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The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.