John Lewis:
Governor Wallace in the meantime warned us that the march would not be allowed. But we insisted that we had a right to march. We crossed the bridge and we met a sea of state troopers. One of the State Troopers identified himself as Major Cloud and said on the bullhorn, "This is an unlawful march and it will not be allowed to continue. I give you three minutes to disperse." We waited the three minutes and just stood and when the three minutes were up he told the Troopers to advance and they had the helmets and the gas masks on and the bullwhips and clubs. And they came in.
Interviewer:
How did you feel at that moment when you saw them coming?
John Lewis:
I felt frightened -- literally frightened. But I felt that we had to stay there, we had to stand there. There was something that said that you couldn't turn back. We had to stay there and I didn't believe -- I really didn't believe -- that the Troopers would do what they did, for some strange reason I didn't, but I felt that we had to stay there. And we stayed there and we were beaten.
Interviewer:
You got a fractured skull in that?
John Lewis:
Yes, I did.
Interviewer:
Was that a single blow from a Trooper?
John Lewis:
A single blow apparently from a club, I guess, of a Trooper, but I felt like when that whole thing from the gas that this is really the end. I guess the greatest concern was also for the people. Most of the march was made of young teenagers and women. A lot of the people had just left the church and came straight to Brown Chapel AME Church. It was a frightening moment, really terrifying.
Interviewer:
Was that the most frightening moment you have ever had?
John Lewis:
Yes, without question. I think we were literally lucky, all of us, for no one to be seriously hurt or killed. You know, Sheriff [Jim] Clark had a posse that he had organized. He had people with bullwhips, with ropes running through the marchers on horses beating people. But people got together and I think that helped to electrify the black community in Selma and the whole area of Alabama. It had a tremendous impact on the country. People couldn't believe that that could happen. And the response of people, particularly people who had supported SNCC and SCLC all across the country. A series of demonstrations took place, I think, by that Tuesday by friends of SNCC in different cities. There were about eighty sympathy marchers. Protests had been organized; some people slipped into the Justice Department in Washington. The year that President Johnson served, his daughter couldn't sleep because people had been singing, "We shall overcome" all around the White House.

- John Lewis, former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Georgia congressman

Interview with John Lewis by Jack Bass and Walter DeVries, November 20, 1973, Interview A-0073, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection #4007, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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