SELMA, Alabama (AP) — Georgia Congressman John Lewis strolled to the middle of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday and remembered the incident 45 years ago when he and other civil rights marchers were beaten on the day that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Lewis spoke shortly before he was to lead hundreds of marchers across the bridge in a recreation of the 1965 march.

Also Sunday in Washington, President Barack Obama marked the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” by praising “these heroes” who marched into history and endured beatings by Alabama state troopers at the start of their landmark voting rights trek.

The first black U.S. president said that despite all the progress since “that terrible day in Selma,” more still needs to be done.

Marchers were a few blocks into their Selma-to-Montgomery march on March 7, 1965, when they were beaten by state troopers on the bridge.

The march was later completed under federal protection, with Martin Luther King Jr. leading it. It led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to blacks and ended all-white government.

Also Sunday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, was the keynote speaker at the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast in Selma. Madikizela-Mandela told the 500-plus audience at Wallace Community College in Selma that no American place in the civil rights struggle was more important than Selma.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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