King Showed the Power of Economic Boycott
Though King was trying to push an economic boycott of Alabama products to put pressure on the State to integrate schools and employment, the Hammermill paper company announced the opening of a $35 million plant in Selma during the height of violence in Selma. The company touted the “fine reports the company had received about the character of the community and its people.” After activists conducted picketing and a sit-in at Hammermill’s headquarters in Erie, Pennsylvania, the corporate leadership of Hammermill met with movement leaders and agreed to sign a statement supporting integration in Alabama.
Some Activists Believed Johnson “Out-Foxed” King
On March 15, 1965, Johnson delivered his famous speech—when he said “it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”—and delivered a bill to Congress that would eventually pass and become the Voting Rights Act. But some leaders of the movement remained skeptical of Johnson, believing he had allowed violence to be visited on the movement in the early months of the campaign and was not a reliable supporter. Attorney JL Chestnut, the first African-American lawyer in Selma, said the president had “outfoxed” and “co-opted” King and the SCLC. James Forman was heard joking that by quoting “We Shall Overcome,” Johnson had simply “spoiled a good song.”