Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.
Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.
At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”
In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.
“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”
Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.
The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.
Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.
“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.
King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.
He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.
There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.
(Story continues below)
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Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.
The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.
The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.
“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”
Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.
Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.