The movie shows how African-Americans were humiliated, threatened with losing their jobs, beaten or even killed for attempting to vote in the South. A group of civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo), decide that the best course of action is to fight for the unobstructed right to vote. King meets with President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) to request that he pass the Voting Rights Act. But the president’s goal is to keep a handle on the civil rights movement and he is interested in uncovering King’s next course of action. He claims that there is too much on his plate, including fighting poverty, to pass a Voting Rights Act.
The activists decide to bring attention to the issue by holding a non-violent demonstration in Selma, Alabama. As the protesters kneel down before Sheriff Jim Clark, a police officer strikes an elderly man who has difficulty kneeling. When two protesters intervene to protect the man, the police respond with a vicious attack. The protesters flee, but the policemen are unrelenting in their pursuit. One young man helps his family escape into a restaurant, where they pretend to be eating. The policemen track them down and shoot the young man in cold blood. Spurred on by this tragedy, the community rallies together. They organize a non-violent march from Selma.
Governor Wallace commissions Sheriff Jim Clark to teach them a lesson. When the peaceful marchers reach the end of a Edmund Pettus Bridge, Sheriff Jim Clark is waiting. He sics his armed state troopers on them. The nation watches, horrified, as the marchers are savagely beaten as white citizens cheer from the sidelines. Martian Luther King sends out a call to his fellow clergy to stand with him when they march again. Moved by the inhumanity, they come to show their support. It is inspiring to see black and white people from all religions joining arms and standing together.
Witnessing the inhumane treatment of the marchers in Selma created more understanding of the plight of African Americans - which allowed President Lyndon Johnson to finally pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965. I hope that witnessing these events in, "Selma," will remind us of the difficult battle that was waged to achieve these rights, so we won’t allow them to be taken away.
Fueled by Ava DuVernay's treatment, I wrote, "Incredible Invisible Women Filmmakers." Read more about it in Scott Mendelson's excellent article, "Why Ava DuVernay's "Selma" Oscar Snub Matters."
"Selma," was honored with the Best Song Oscar for, "Glory," by songwriters Common and John Legend. They made the most of the opportunity with this powerful rendition at the Oscar ceremony.