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Recalling four martyrs in the year after Selma

Recalling four martyrs in the year after Selma

Remembering the four who died in the year after Selma.


They were just four of the thousands of Americans who came to Selma 50 years ago, heeding the call of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for people of conscience to join in protesting the plight of African-Americans in Alabama at the height of the civil rights movement.

The four marytrs — a Baptist deacon, a minister, a Unitarian laywoman and an Episcopal seminarian — are largely unknown, but they’re being remembered for sacrificing their lives for the rights of others.

The names of all four are etched in the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., along with 36 others — starting with Mississippi minister George Lee, who died in 1955, and ending with King, who was assassinated in 1968.

“The gravity of his call for justice in the South became punctuated even more graphically by these deaths,” said Montgomery historian Richard Bailey.

About Jonathan Daniels:

“He pulled me out of the way and the bullet hit him instead,” said Ruby Sales, now 66, recalling the day, Aug. 20, 1965, that Daniels saved her life and lost his.

They had just been released from jail, where they were held with other civil rights workers who were protesting the exploitation of black sharecroppers by white plantation owners in Fort Deposit, Ala. Daniels, 26, and Sales were in a group of people who stopped at a store to buy a soda. A white special deputy sheriff aimed a gun at Sales, and Daniels took the shot.

Daniels, the valedictorian of his class at the Virginia Military Institute, had left his Episcopal seminary in Cambridge, Mass., and headed to Selma, like others, answering King’s call after the first “Bloody Sunday” march. But unlike many who left, he stayed and worked on voter registration in Lowndes County and also pushed for the integration of a white Episcopal congregation in Selma.


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