“U.S. Troops in Viet Nam, but none in Selma” – Today in History: March 9
Civil Rights picket, US Courthouse, Hartford

Civil Rights picket, US Courthouse, Hartford, March 9, 1965 - Hartford Times Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

On March 9, 1965, protesters held an all-night vigil in front of Connecticut Governor John Dempsey’s residence. Representatives of Hartford’s civil rights movement, led by members of the North End Community Action Project (NECAP), picketed in support of the voter registration marchers in Selma, Alabama, who had been attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination against African Americans and women. The law was supposed to ensure the equal application of voter registration requirements, but Selma continued to block black voters by requiring literacy tests, restricting access to registration sites, and by condoning intimidation and violence.

Demonstrators organized a march on March 7, 1965, from Selma to Montgomery, to bring their demands for reform before the Alabama legislature. On March 6th, Governor George Wallace forbade the march, ordering state troopers to stop it.  As the 600 civil rights protestors crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, state troopers and sheriffs deputies beat them back and forcibly restrained them. Fifty-six black marchers were hospitalized.

The Hartford protesters, in solidarity, asked the governor to contact President Johnson in support of federal intervention and carried signs, one of which read, “U.S. Troops in Viet Nam, but none in Selma.”

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