Albert J. Raboteau recounts a story that illustrates the true spirit of the Selma-Montgomery marches.
I took a group of students, both undergraduate and graduate students, and some alumni, on a civil rights tour. And one of the places that we went was Selma. And Joanne Bland, a woman who was beaten as a child on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, runs a civil rights museum right at the foot of the bridge. And on the wall, she showed us a card that had been sent by one of the white troopers who had beat her and others on the bridge, apologising, saying that he repented for what he had done, regretted it, and wanted to express his sorrow.
And then one of the older alumni who was along with us in his 70s and had arthritis, he had been down to march in Selma, and he told her that he had been one of the marchers. And she gave him a big hug and said how important it was to them that white people came, so that they knew they were not alone, they knew that the nation knew about them. And they both started crying and they hugged each other, and the rest of us started crying as well.
So after that, the group was going to walk across the bridge. And I got out and I thought, “I don’t need to walk across the bridge. I’ve already seen the bridge” – in terms of these two people hugging each other, one who was beaten and one who came to bear witness to the injustice of that beating. So, for me, I had already crossed the bridge.