Did Bernie Sanders March in Selma with MLK?

Did Bernie Sanders March in Selma with MLK?

A photo allegedly shows a young Bernie Sanders participating in a march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in March 1965.

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Did Sanders March in Selma?

The photo above has been shared online by Sanders supporters who claim that Bernie participated in one of the Selma to Montgomery marches that occurred in 1965.

It is highly unlikely, however, that the man in the photo is Bernie Sanders. Let’s take a look at some of the points which have been addressed as we arrive at this conclusion.

Sanders’ Own Words

Perhaps most important is that Sanders himself has not discussed participating in a 1965 march led by Dr. King. In June 2015 Sanders penned piece entitled “Youth Unemployment and Dr. King’s Dream” in which he confirms that he attended the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington. In this essay, which spans nearly 800 words, Sanders does not mention Selma at all.

Biographies which focus on Sanders’ life in the 1960s note that he moved to Vermont immediately after graduating from college in June 1964. He and his wife much of the next two years traveling Europe before their divorce in 1966. These biographies do not mention a trip to Alabama in 1965.

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Notable early events in Sanders’ political career include his arrest during a demonstration against segregation in Chicago’s public schools in 1963, and a civil rights sit-in at the University of Chicago in 1962. Once again, a 1965 march in Selma is not included in histories of Sanders’ early political career.

In March 2015, Sanders announced that he would attend the 50th anniversary of the Selma march – and did not mention that he had attended the original event himself. At the event, his speech also failed to mention that he was there at the historic march.

Resemblance to the Man in the Photo

A resemblance to the man in the photo is the only “evidence” offered that we are seeing Bernie Sanders marching with King. Some debunking sites have compared the man in the photo with images of Sanders from the 1970s to suggest that there was a resemblance. Sanders did sport a long, curly hair style in the 1970s, but Sanders kept his hair shorter around the time of the Selma march, as seen in the 1963 photo below.

bernie sanders 1963

A weak argument used to disprove the photo is a reference to the Corbis caption, which doesn’t mention Sanders. While it’s true that Corbis doesn’t list Sanders in its official caption, the description was likely created by the original photo agency at the time the image was taken. If that is the case, Sanders’ name would not have been included, as he was not a notable figure in 1965.

Second Image

Another image from Selma which allegedly shows Sanders has also circulated online. A caption sometimes reads, “He could not shut up, so he showed up. Bernie Sanders #FeelTheBern.”

The photo shows police arresting a young man with dark hair and glasses.


MSNBC posted the photo in a collection of Selma images, and did not mention Sanders in the caption:

Three white civil rights workers are arrested by Dallas County deputy sheriffs in Selma, Ala., on Jan. 27, 1965, as they approached line of African Americans lined up to register to vote at the courthouse. Officers told them to move on and when they argued they were arrested.

Note that the man in the second image has a different hair style and length than the man in the first photo. Additionally, the second image was taken on January 27, 1965, while the first image was taken in March of that year. The Selma marches did not occur in January when this photo was taken.

Rep. John Lewis

While answering a reporter’s question about Sanders’ activities during the civil rights movement on February 11, 2016, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) interrupted the reporter. “Well, to be very frank, I’m going to cut you off, but I never saw him, I never met him,” said Lewis, who did attend the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Joy-Ann Reid

In response to a tweet that claimed Sanders had Photoshopped himself into the photo, author Joy-Ann Reid posted a series of tweets about the photo, stating the Sanders campaign confirmed the man in the image was not him.

Bottom Line

The photo which allegedly shows Bernie Sanders marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma is most likely just a man who only resembled the future Senator. Sanders has not mentioned Selma in his own writings about Dr. King, nor do his biographies mention any participation in a march in 1965.

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