Arc of the moral universe

Finally, finally, finally.

Forty-five years ago, Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed by State Trooper James Fowler during a night protest in Marion, Alabama, near Selma. His death led to the march from Selma to Montgomery, which resulted in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act.

Fowler has just plead guilty and been given a six month sentence. Short? Very, very short. But Fowler had previously maintained that Jackson was not murdered, but that he, Fowler, shot him in self-defense.

As Dr. King said in his famous speech in Montgomery about waiting for justice, "How long? Not long, because 'No lie can live forever.'.... How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Here's the New York Times piece.

Check out the archived New Yorker online article, Letter from Selma, by reporter Renata Adler who was on the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. It will give you a vivid feeling of being on the march. Several times during the five day march, Adler spoke with a young marcher, Charles Mauldin, whom I was lucky enough to interview two years ago for Marching for Freedom.

I'd love to hear thoughts on how to ask the right questions to get students to talk about what this means. I can think of a couple of obvious ones: Why do you think Fowler plead guilty? Do you think a jury would be more likely to convict him of murder today than in 1965? What has changed since 1965 that Fowler would now be more likely to be held accountable for his actions?

Any other ideas?