[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/15/zarrella.selma.pennsylvania/art.selma.bridge.cnn.jpg caption="The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, site of the 1965 'Bloody Sunday' march."]
On Sunday we commemorate the courage and sacrifice of 600 men and women who dared 45 years ago to take the first steps in a 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital, Montgomery, for the right to vote. That day, Sunday, March 7, 1965, would come to be known as "Bloody Sunday."
As these unarmed civil rights patriots attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where fewer than one percent of eligible black voters were allowed to register, they were gassed and beaten with billy clubs by state and local police, some on horseback, ordered to break up the demonstration.
Captured by television cameras and broadcast nationwide, the suffering of these nonviolent activists, 50 of whom required hospitalization, awoke the nation's consciousness to the importance of voting rights and the entire civil rights movement.
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