The hard wooden pews of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal
(ame) Church teemed with ­ people on March  4, 2007, as the crowd waited
for Barack Obama to ascend the pulpit. It was early in the presidential
campaign of 2008, and the African American senator from Illinois was
facing New York senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton in a fight for
the Demo­cratic nomination. President Bill Clinton and his wife had earned
much re­spect from black Americans during his years in office, and Senator
Obama’s success hung on his ability to convince black voters that he was
a worthier candidate than his formidable opponent. He chose Selma, Ala-
bama, as the place to make that claim.
Rewind the scene forty years to January  2, 1965. The throng inside
Brown Chapel looked hauntingly similar. Martin Luther King  Jr., stand-
ing above a sanctuary jammed with local black residents, described Selma
as a symbol of ­bitter re­sis­tance to civil rights in the Deep South. On that
dark winter night, he named the city the new national battleground for
voting rights, and African American residents of the Black ­Belt tight-
ened the laces of their marching shoes in agreement. Two months ­ la ter,
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