Stepping across a bridge leading over a turbulent river, the marching African Americans appear fearful but united as they face the angry creature blocking their path. Representative of the struggles faced by African Americans as they fought for their civil rights while traversing the Edmund Pettus bridge on Bloody Sunday, this dramatic scene is emblematic of Jacob Lawrence's work for his use of flat shapes and bold colors.
In 1965 hundreds of civil rights marchers left Selma, Alabama, on a peace march to Montgomery. Just outside Selma, at the Edmond Pettus Bridge, the marchers were met with resistance from local law enforcement officials and townspeople. The marchers led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and others were repeatedly turned back. After several days of stalemate and verbal and physical abuse, the determined marchers were allowed to continue. Lawrence commented: "I thought it was part of the history of the country, part of the history of our progress; not of just the black progress, but of the progress of the people."