(Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will call on Americans to carry forward the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement on Saturday during a visit to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a march that sparked the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Obama, the first black U.S. president, will deliver remarks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and used tear gas against peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth.
The event became known as "Bloody Sunday" and prompted a follow-up march led by civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
During a trip to South Carolina on Friday, Obama said he planned to focus on the future in his speech.
"Selma is not just about commemorating the past. It's about honoring the legends who helped change this country through your actions today, in the here and now," he told a town hall-style meeting.
"Selma is now. Selma is about the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe they can change the country, that they can shape our nation's destiny. Selma is about each of us asking ourselves what we can do to make America better."
The anniversary comes at a time of renewed focus on racial disparities in the United States including discrimination among law enforcement against black citizens nationwide.
Obama condemned the Missouri city of Ferguson on Friday for "oppressive and abusive" actions against black residents that were revealed in a U.S. Justice Department report accusing police and court officials of racial bias.
Obama and his family will commemorate the marches and mark the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act during their trip.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler)