A quiet moment to redeem a scarred past

Instead of cheering on election night, they quietly prayed to move beyond race.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff

Elections are usually filled with fanfare, confetti, and screaming supporters. But on election night in Selma, Ala., just a few dozen people huddled together to remember those who had lost their lives fighting for the right to vote. They sang hymns as they walked along the Edmund Pettus Bridge where 43 years ago, at the height of the civil rights movement, state troopers toppled marchers to the ground.

As I moved through the crowd, focusing my camera by candlelight, I realized what a unique opportunity it was to photograph such an intimate moment. I wanted to capture the thoughtful expressions and the sense of peace that filled the air.

I witnessed a different kind of history; a quiet gathering that simultaneously acknowledged a scarred past and looked toward a future of equality. No televisions streamed results. No political pundits analyzed speeches. Citizens just prayed that Barack Obama would win the presidency and that his victory would signal that this country was striving to move beyond race.

Everyone will remember where they were when the first African-American was elected president. I was fortunate to be in one of the places where the struggle for equality first began.

(Editor's note: The original version misidentified Mary Knox Merrill's title, and had an incorrect headline.)

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