Selma, Alabama — For Reverend Frederick D. Reese, obtaining the right to vote for African-Americans meant freedom.

So he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL in 1965, along with hundreds of other supporters.

The day became known as “Bloody Sunday,” after Alabama state troopers beat protesters with billy clubs and subdued them with tear gas.

Reese was President of the Dallas County Voter’s League at the time and was also a local teacher.

“In 1965, I would not have thought I’d get a chance to walk across the {Edmund Pettus Bridge} in celebration,” said Reese, who recently joined hundreds for a bridge crossing reenacment. “I marched so everyone, regardless of color, could become a first-class citzen.”

Reese and his fellow marchers may have been forced to retreat, but ultimately led a successful march to Montgomery, the state’s capitol.

Selma would provide a spark for then-President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.

“I was exercising a freedom I never thought possible, in both my mind and heart,” said Reese, who is now Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Selma. “So many people have given so much to get our nation to this point. And we’re not 100 percent yet.”

Reese hasn’t left the community which he help become the center of the Civil Rights Movment in the 1960s.

Reese recalls countless stories of jailings, beatings, and walking hand-in-hand with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights.

He said his fight today is to get to reach young people and inspire them to lead lives of purpose.

“I tell young people today that they cannot rest on our victories,” Reese said. “We have to remain committed. That means registering to vote and participating in what this country has to offer. That means making a difference for others.”

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter at @rantoddj