Press Releases

President Biden delivers his annual address exactly 59 years after Bloody Sunday

Washington D.C. — Today, on the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) brought bring three original Foot Soldiers from the Selma to Montgomery marches as her guests to the 2024 State of the Union address. Ms. Sheyann Webb-Christburg, Mr. Bennie Lee Tucker, and Ms. JoAnne Bland joined Rep. Sewell on Thursday as President Biden delivered his annual address exactly 59 years after peaceful demonstrators were brutalized on the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the equal right to vote. Rep. Sewell also invited Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner Jr. of Marion, Alabama whose father, Albert Turner Sr., helped lead the Selma to Montgomery March and served as an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. 

“With President Biden’s State of the Union address falling on the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I can think of no one more befitting to invite as my guests than some of the original Foot Soldiers from the Selma to Montgomery marches,” said Rep. Sewell. “These individuals have risked life and limb for the right of all Americans to vote, and their lives are a testament to the power of ordinary Americans to achieve extraordinary social change. As our right to vote comes under renewed threat, it is my hope that their presence will bring attention to the sacrifices that so many have made in the name of equality and justice for all.”

Sheyann Webb-Christburg is a native of the historic Selma, Alabama and is known as Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘’Smallest Freedom Fighter.’’ At only eight years old, she participated in the historic march for voting rights that would later become known as Bloody Sunday. Sheyann’s activism began at an early age when she became one of the first children to integrate the public school system in Dallas County. Against her parents’ wishes, she continued her journey as a Freedom Fighter when she began attending Civil Rights meetings at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church. Since Bloody Sunday, Sheyann has worked with many giants of the Civil Rights Movement and is a published author of the book Selma, Lord, Selma which recounts her experience on Bloody Sunday.

Bennie Lee Tucker moved to Selma in 1962 to attend Selma University. He had a scholarship and intended to become a Baptist preacher. However, after two years in Selma he became a civil rights activist and worked very closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., serving as his bodyguard. He participated in the marches on Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the successful Selma to Montgomery march. Later, he served as a Selma City Councilman for 16 years.

JoAnne Bland grew up in Selma, Alabama during segregation and the civil rights movement. As a result of segregation, Bland lost her mother who died in a "white" hospital waiting for a transfusion of "black blood." After losing her mother, it was JoAnne’s grandmother who encouraged her and her sister to be an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. She became the youngest person to have been jailed during any civil rights demonstration during that time period. At just 11 years old, she joined the march from Selma to Montgomery led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams on March 7, 1965. Today, she is the owner and operator of Journeys for the Soul, a touring agency that specializes in Civil Rights tours in Selma.