photo: USIA/Lartz

The journey ended on Thursday, March 25 with a rally at the Alabama state capitol, below the window of Governor George Wallace. Martin Luther King, Jr. reassured a gathering of 25,000 people that the days of Southern white brutality were waning.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama...

They told us we wouldn't get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, 'We ain't goin' let nobody turn us around'...

Today I want to tell the city of Selma, today I want to say to the state of Alabama, today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now....

Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us. ... The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us....The beating and killing of our clergymen and young people will not divert us.

The wanton release of their known murderers would not discourage us. We are on the move now. ...Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us.We are moving to the land of freedom...

I know you are asking today, 'How long will it take?' Somebody's asking, 'How long will prejudice blind the visions of men?'...

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.

How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow.
How long? Not long.

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own.

How long? Not long,
Because the arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends toward justice.

How long? Not long, because
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.
O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet!
Our God is marching on.
Glory, hallelujah! Glory, hallelujah!
Glory, hallelujah! Glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on."

Read the full transcript

Among those listening to King's speech was Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of five who had traveled from Detroit to join the march. By midnight she would be dead - shot while driving a black man home from the demonstration. The next morning, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called President Johnson with news: the Bureau was poised to arrest Liuzzo's killers, three members of the Ku Klux Klan. As it turned out, there had been a fourth man in the car, an FBI informant. In the call, Hoover told Johnson what agents learned from the informant, and how exactly the FBI infiltrated the Klan.

J. Edgar Hoover: They discussed that after it was over, if the woman died, they were going to throw the guns into the blast furnace where they worked in those steel mills down there. That's what we are laying for now - to head off these individuals when they come to work this morning and shake them down. If we are lucky enough to find a gun on them, that will be the big break in the case...

JEH: We've got the informant in the office and we're talking to him because he's scared to death - naturally, because he fears for his life.

President Johnson: What is an infiltrator and an informant? You hire someone and they join the Klan?

JEH: No, we go to someone who is in the Klan and persuade him to work for the government. We pay him for it. Sometimes they demand a pretty high price…For instance, in those three bodies they found in Mississippi, we had to pay thirty thousand dollars for that…Now, this man that we have now, this informant, he's not a regular agent of the Bureau. But he's one of these people that we put in, just like we do into the Communist party, so they'll keep us informed. And fortunately, he happened to be in on this thing last night. Otherwise we would be looking for a needle in a haystack.

LBJ: That's wonderful, Edgar. Thank you so much.

That day - March 26, 1965 - President Johnson announced the arrests of four men suspected of murdering Viola Liuzzo. He also vowed a federal crackdown on the Klan.

Next: part 5

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