WASHINGTON — The nation paused this weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”
On March 7, 1965, many in a crowd of 600 were severely beaten by Alabama state troopers as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to demand an end to discrimination against black voters.
President Barack Obama joined tens of thousands in a commemorative march across the bridge Saturday, calling the civil rights activists who were part of the original protest “warriors of justice” who pushed America to a more perfect union.
Civil rights activist Joan Mulholland wasn’t on that bridge, but she was one of the earliest leaders of the movement.
“Segregation was unfair,” Mulholland has said. “It was wrong, morally, religiously. As a Southerner – a white Southerner – I felt that we should do what we could to make the South better, and to rid ourselves of this evil.”
She began participating in sit-ins protesting the color barrier while a student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. When the Dean of Women pressured her to stop her activism, she dropped out.
At the age of 19, in 1961, she was arrested as one of the Freedom Riders. She spent two months at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as the Parchman State Prison Farm, where female prisoners were humiliated and terrorized by forced vaginal examinations.
The interracial groups of people rode public buses into the Deep South, risking severe beatings as they fought to desegregate public transportation.