Laura Bush, second from left, and former president George W. Bush, as well as members of Congress and civil rights leaders make a symbolic walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” a landmark event of the civil rights movement on March 7, 2015. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

One of the civil rights movement’s most prominent leaders was absent from the historic re-staging of the 1965 march across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on Saturday.

Two presidents — including the country’s first African American commander-in-chief — members of Congress, and civil rights leaders who marched 50 years ago, crossed the bridge hand in hand. But not Diane Nash, one of the architects of the Selma strategy, and one of the most respected and prominent civil rights leaders of that time.

Nash refused to be present for the iconic moment for one reason: former president George W. Bush.

[Fifty years after ‘Bloody Sunday’ march, struggles endure in Selma]

“I refused to march because George Bush marched,” Nash told Roland Martin of News One Now. “I think the Selma movement was about non-violence and peace and democracy. And George Bush stands for just the opposite: For violence and war and stolen elections, and his administration … had people tortured.”

“So I thought that this was not an appropriate event for him,” she added.

Nash, now 76, was present at many of the civil rights movement’s most pivotal moments: She co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, served jail time in solidarity with the “Rock Hill Nine,” and was one of the architects of the Selma march. 

[Convictions of black protesters imprisoned for 1961 sit-in are overturned, 54 years later]

Her absence from one of the most iconic moments of the 50th anniversary events of this weekend is notable.


Before they participated in the Freedom Rides, C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash (front row) and other demonstrators marched to Nashville City Hall on April 19, 1960. (Jack Corn/Archive library file)

Nash’s comments highlight the reality that seven years after Bush left office, his presence is still the source of an enormous amount of controversy.

“I’m also concerned that the legacy of the Selma movement, which stands for non-violence, will be confused. And so I did not wish to be a part of something that included him,” she added.

[Decayed, uninhabitable homes will be Obama’s first view of Selma ]

You might have even missed the former president as he marched with former first lady Laura Bush on the outer edges of the bridge. He was far enough away from Obama and the first family — who crossed in the middle of the bridge — that many photographers were forced to cut him off in order to get a closer shot of the sitting president.

And that led Bush’s supporters to fret that his appearance at Selma — in contrast with the absence of most other Republicans in congressional leadership — was ignored.

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