Selma civil rights milestone marked by first black president - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Selma civil rights milestone marked by first black president

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(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

SELMA, Ala. (AP) - President Barack Obama says America's racial history "still casts its long shadow" despite a half-century of progress toward a more perfect union.

In Selma, Alabama, Obama stood in solidarity and remembrance Saturday with survivors of a civil rights era that he was too young to know. 

He joined civil rights marchers of 50 years ago at the bridge where police brutality on "Bloody Sunday" galvanized America's opposition to racial oppression in the South and hastened passage of historic voting rights for minorities.

Obama spoke immediately after Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the Selma march who was brought down by police truncheons on that day in 1965, fracturing his skull.

Thousands from across the U.S. packed the riverside town for commemorations of the march on March 7, 1965.  

Selma's fire department estimated the crowd reached 40,000. Former President George W. Bush shared the platform. Republican congressional leaders were mostly absent but one, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, joined the walk.

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