‘I don’t give up’: Orlando teen retraces history walking 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Parramore teen just walked 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery to commemorate when hundreds marched to fight for voting rights in 1965.

Jones High School student Smith Charles’ journey comes on the heels of a renewed push for stricter voting laws.

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In 1965, hundreds of civil rights marchers left Selma for Montgomery. They got as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge before they were beaten and clubbed. Some were even killed. It is a day now known as Bloody Sunday.

Fast forward to March 12 of this year: Charles and his mentor Brad Mason began their 54-mile walk to Montgomery with 30 pound packs on their backs.

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“Walking on that bridge, it felt scary cause you watch the movie people talk about the history. That’s the Bloody Sunday,” Charles said.

The pair stopped at all four of the campsites visited during that five-day journey in 1965 when the group finally made it through.

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“It gives you a feeling of, like, what a lot of people died and risked their lives for,” Charles said.

And after 28.5 nonstop hours, they made it to Montgomery.

“I’m not going to lie right now, I feel like crying,” Charles said. “It felt free. It felt good.”

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Overall, he said he was overcome with a sense of accomplishment.

“I don’t give up,” he said. “I like giving it my all. I feel like if I’m still alive, I gotta keep going.”

Karen Parks

Karen Parks, WFTV.com

Karen Parks is a reporter at WFTV.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.