Foot Soldiers Reunite to Share Stories as Part of Grand Opening Activities for ASU Interpretive Center
From left, unidentified man, Timothy Mays, unidentified man, Dorothy Frazier, Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Martin Luther King Jr., Jessie Davis and John Lewis lead marchers in the Selma to Montgomery march on March 17, 1965. The man on the far left of the front row of marchers wears an Alabama State University shirt.
By Hazel Scott
Some of the foot soldiers who participated in protests connected to the 1965 voting rights fight, will be on Alabama State University campus at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, to be recognized and to share their stories.
The event is part of activities leading up to the 11 a.m. March 25 Grand Opening of the Montgomery Interpretive Center at Alabama State University, the third and final civil rights Interpretive Center along the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights Trail. The other interpretive centers are in downtown Selma and in Lowndes County.
The day of the Grand Opening there will be music, booths, food, a student-led march starting at the Ralph D. Abernathy Hall, and much more.
During the “Foot Soldiers Speak” event, each activist’s story will tell a different tale of the struggle to overcome racism during the Jim Crow Era. The audience with hear about the intensity of the 1960s as brave men and women sought to further the Civil Rights Movement and about those who made a lasting impact.
“The Selma to Montgomery National Trail captures some of the darkest moments in our modern history, but also captures the hope and determination that led to the Voting Rights Act,” said Dr. Janice Franklin, director of ASU’s National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture.
All events are free and open to the public but registration is required. To register online visit www.alasu.edu/footsoldiers
Meet the seven to be honored:
ASU student Timothy Mays, from Lowndes County, is one of the 600 marchers beaten and tear gassed on “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Despite being clubbed by a state trooper, Mays refused to drop a large American flag he was carrying and marched the entire 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery carrying the flag. Mays kept the American flag as a symbol of injustice he and others endured for the cause of freedom. That American flag is now displayed at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center in Hayneville, Ala.
In 1965, ASU student activist Dorothy Frazier, a Montgomery native, led and was arrested during a series of protests surrounding voting rights in Montgomery. On March 17, 1965, Frazier joined Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a negotiating team charged with ending attacks on student protestors by horse mounted posses, Montgomery police and state troopers. The team secured an apology from local authorities and a promise not to use posses in the future when dealing with student demonstrations.
Doug McCants was one of nine students expelled from ASU for participating in the historic ‘60s ASU student lunch counter sit-in at the Montgomery County Courthouse cafeteria. As an activist at Alabama State University, McCants helped organize voting rights protests among ASU students in March 1965. As a consequence of his participation in campus protests and his involvement in a student takeover of the president’s office, McCants was arrested and later expelled for the lunch counter sit-in.
In March of 1965, Gwen Patton, who attended Tuskegee Institute, traveled with 800 Tuskegee students to Montgomery to participate in days of student-led protests around voting rights. A civil rights veteran, the Montgomery native returned to Tuskegee Institute where she was voted the school’s first female Student Council President. Patton then became a leader in the student anti-war movement.
Willie Ricks, aka “Mukasa Dada”
Willie Ricks, aka “Mukasa Dada,” was a fiery young civil rights activist, community organizer and leader in the struggle for equal rights in the United States. In March 1965, the Chattanooga, Tenn. native made his way to Alabama State University where he successfully mobilized hundreds of students to participate in protests around the voting rights campaign. After the Selma to Montgomery March, Ricks continued to lead students in protests on ASU campus. In the Mississippi Delta, Ricks encouraged the use of “Black Power” as a rallying cry in the Civil Rights Movement.
Rev. Richard Boone
In March 1965, Rev. Richard Boone, a graduate of Alabama State University, was working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a field worker stationed in Dallas County. Boone was tasked with organizing support ahead of the Selma to Montgomery March. On March 23, 1965, Boone arrived on the ASU campus where he organized 800 students and led them to meet the Selma to Montgomery marchers on Mobile Highway. From there, Boone, ASU students and 30,000 marchers made the final leg of the march to the state Capitol.
Activist Sammy Younge participated in the Civil Rights Movement as a member of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League, and through his membership in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Younge, along with 800 Tuskegee students traveled to Montgomery in March of 1965, to participate in days of student-led protests. After the Tuskegee students returned to Macon County, they continued to challenge racial discrimination. Young was 21 when he was shot and killed on Jan. 2, 1966, by a gas station attendant for objecting to a whites-only restroom policy.
About the March From Selma to Montgomery in 1965
Civil rights activists were brutally attached by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. This day, now known as “Bloody Sunday,” was the first of three planned peaceful protests from Selma to Montgomery. Nearly 2,500 Foot Soldiers led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attempted a second march two days later on March 9, 1995, now known as “Turnaround Tuesday.” An estimated 8,000 foot soldiers left Selma on March 21,1965, and successfully marched to Montgomery to peacefully protest restrictive voting laws that prevented African Americans from voting in the South.
Despite Timothy Mays being clubbed by a state trooper on "Bloody Sunday" on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Mays refused to drop a large American flag he was carrying and marched the entire 54-mile trek from Selma to Montgomery carrying the flag.