March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama
Songwriter: James Orange
Performed by: The Freedom Singers
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The Selma to Montgomery march was a public-relations disaster for Alabama governor George Wallace, and his role in opposing protesters was condemned in a doo-wop style song named after him. The harmonies of doo-wop were popular at the time of the march.
In 1958, Wallace had made an unsuccessful bid for office, saying, "If I didn't have what it took to treat a man fair, regardless of his color, then I don't have what it takes to be the governor of your great state." His opponent, backed by the Ku Klux Klan, beat Wallace by more than 64,000 votes.
By 1963, having learned what Alabama's white constituents wanted, he rode to victory on a segregation platform. That year, he famously said, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," and barred the University of Alabama from integrating.
For more on music and the movement, read comments by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Music courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, www.si.edu/ folkways.