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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joanne Bland (born July 29, 1952 in Selma, Alabama) is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama.[1] Bland was a highly active participant in the Civil Rights Movement from her earliest days, and was the youngest person to have been jailed during any civil rights demonstration during that period.[2][3] Bland grew up in segregated Selma, Alabama, where she was not allowed to enter certain stores and was only allowed to go in the library and movie theater on days labeled "colored."[4] As a result of growing up in segregation Bland lost her mother, who died in a "white" hospital waiting for a transfusion of "black blood."[5] Her grandmother encouraged Bland and her sister to march and become a freedom fighter to fight for their freedom, even though her father disapproved due to his fear for their lives.[6] It did not stop Bland who became active in the movement when she was eight years old.[7] When she was eight years old, she attended a meeting with the Dallas County Voters League with her grandmother.[8]

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Early life and activism

Bland began her activism in 1961, attending a freedom and voters' rights meeting presided over by Martin Luther King Jr. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members active in Selma organized local teenagers to participate in the movement, including marching on "Bloody Sunday" and "Turn Around Tuesday".[9] On "Bloody Sunday", March 7, 1965, Bland witnessed fellow activists being beaten by the police and Alabama State Troopers.[10] By the time she was 11 years old, Bland had been arrested a documented 13 times.[11] Bland's first time being arrested was when she was eight years old at the beginning of her activism.[12] During the march while Bland witnessed people being beaten, they could not get away from police as they moved in from the sides, back, and front.[13] Bland's sister, Lynda Blackmon Lowery, was the youngest person that participated in the march, she was 14 years old at that time. Lowery saw people putting Bland in the back of a white car and she thought her sister was dead, but when she got to the car, she soon realized that Bland just fainted. When Bland woke up, she could feel her sister's blood dripping on her face from being hit on the head many times.[14][15] Bland helped protect white Northerners who chose to participant in the march, they included ministers and college students.[16] On March 21, 1965, she marched from Selma to Montgomery and that same year in August the Voting Rights Act was signed.[17] Bland was one of seven black students who integrated A. G. Parish High School in Alabama.[18][19]


Bland remains active in several local and regional organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Sunflower Project, Ladies With A Mission, and her church, Ward Chapel in Prattville, Alabama. She has spoken at conferences and workshops for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and in the states of Maine, Wisconsin, Vermont, Minnesota, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina, and throughout Alabama.[20]

She served in the United States Army and is a graduate of the College of Staten Island, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree.[21] She was a co-founder of the Voting Rights Museum located across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but she left the museum in 2007. After leaving the museum Bland created Journeys for the Soul located in Alabama, Bland takes individuals of all age groups, on a journey to the past. Through educational tours and lectures, she teaches the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle to achieve Voting Rights.[22] Bland received the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship on April 10, 2014, at an event hosted by SMU.[23] Bland uses her platform to promote the importance of voting and being an active participant in elections.[24] As an activist Bland made it her mission to teach the future generation to about the past of segregation.[25] Bland was a keynote speaker at the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at UW-Eau Claire, February 2019.[26]

Bland is featured in the 2019 documentary on voter suppression, After Selma, directed by Loki Mulholland, where she describes her childhood, activism, and the ongoing struggle for equal voting rights in the United States.[27]


  1. ^ "Joanne Bland". Baylor Magazine. Sep–Oct 2003. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Joanne Bland's Biography". The State of the State: Equity, Opportunity & Diversity in Ohio. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  3. ^ Slma Shelbayah and Moni Basu. "Obama: Selma marchers gave courage to millions". CNN. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  4. ^ bachmanne. "Civil rights activist Joanne Bland spreads message of hope". King Street Chronicle. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  5. ^ Cortez, Marjorie. "Civil rights activists urge Davis High students to know their history, stand up for others". Deseret News Utah. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  6. ^ bachmanne. "Civil rights activist Joanne Bland spreads message of hope". King Street Chronicles. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  7. ^ Gee, Denise. "SMU celebrates human rights heroes and the anniversary of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Thursday, April 10, 2014". SMU World Changers Made Here. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  8. ^ Noltner, John. "JoAnne Bland". A Peace of my Mind. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Reflecting on the 'Legacy of Freedom' tour". Gaston Gazette. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  10. ^ "Joanne Bland". Ganzel Group, Inc. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  11. ^ Finn, Billy (2018-10-13). ""THE GOOD FREEDOM, Part Two." An interview with Joanne Bland". Medium. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  12. ^ "O-D-ing on the N-word". Civil Rights Freedom Tour 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Joanne Bland "Selma: Turning Point for the Church"". Sixties Survivors. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  14. ^ Blackmon Lowery, Lynda (January 8, 2015). Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement. Dial. ISBN 978-0-8037-4123-2.
  15. ^ Guttentag, Bill (2009). Soundtrack for a Revolution: Freedom Songs from the Civil Rights Era (Film). Freedom Songs Production.
  16. ^ "Joanne Bland "Selma: Turning Point for the Church"". Sixties Survivors. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Event held 16 days after Martin Luther King Day to draw in student attendance". The Spectator. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  18. ^ "Joanne Bland". AAE. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  19. ^ Johnson, Sarah. "RACIAL JUSTICE PILGRIMAGE: DAY 3". Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  20. ^ Bunch, Will (25 October 2018). "Survivor of '60s civil rights fight can't believe 2018's voter suppression is so 'blatant'". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  21. ^ Goodman, Amy (March 7, 2005). "Remembering Bloody Sunday: Thousands Mark 40th Anniversary of Selma Voting Rights March". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  22. ^ Finn, Billy. ""THE GOOD FREEDOM, Part Two." An interview with Joanne Bland". Medium Corporation. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  23. ^ Gee, Denise. "SMU celebrates human rights heroes and the anniversary of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Thursday, April 10, 2014". SMU World Changers Shaped Here. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  24. ^ "Who Is JoAnne Bland?". Journeys for the Soul with JoAnne Bland. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  25. ^ Noltner, John. "JoAnne land". A Peace of my Mind. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  26. ^ Gee, Denise. "SMU celebrates human rights heroes and the anniversary of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Thursday, April 10, 2014". SMU World Changers Shaped Here. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  27. ^ "After Selma". Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
This page was last edited on 31 May 2021, at 06:58
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