Selma to Montgomery N.H.T.
A display in the Lowndes
County Interpretive Center
portrays marchers making
their way from Selma to
Montgomery in 1965.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
Edmund Pettus Bridge
The bridge that leads U.S. Highway 80 across the
Alabama River at Selma is a landmark of the
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
Alabama State Capitol
The historic old capitol, built
in 1851, was the setting for
the climax of the march and
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
famed "How Long, Not Long"
speech.
Route of the March
The Selma to Montgomery
National Historic Trail follows
U.S. Highway 80 from Selma
to Montgomery, preserving the
route of the march.
Lowndes Interpretive Center
The beautiful interpretive
center at White Hall is one of
three planned by the National
Park Service.
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail - Alabama
From Selma to Montgomery...
The eyes of the nation and the world focused
on central Alabama in early 1965 as Civil
Rights leaders pushed their campaign for
voting rights to a climactic point.

A series of non-violent protest marches in
Green, Hale, Wilcox, Perry, Dalles, Lowndes
and Montgomery counties has prompted a
court injunction curtailing the rights of those
involved to march. This, in turn, led the Dallas
County Voters League (DCVL) to expand its
efforts to assure that all Alabama citizens
were able to exercise their rights to vote.

A melee broke out in February when a night
march ended in violence that took the life of
protester Jimmy Lee Jackson. Mortally
wounded, he died in a Selma hospital seven
days later.

The death of Jackson sparked a plan to
organize a march that would proceed from
Selma for 54-miles to Montgomery, where
leaders of the movement hoped to meet with
Alabama Governor George C. Wallace.

The planned march began at 3 p.m. on
Sunday, March 7, 1965. The day is widely
remembered now as "Bloody Sunday."

Led by Hosea Williams, John Lewis, Albert
Turner and Bob Mants, a group of roughly
300 people marched through Selma to the
Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama
River. As the march went forward, others
joined in and by the time the group reached
the bridge, its number has swelled to more
than 600 people. On the opposite side of the
bridge, a force of Alabama State Troops and
horseback mounted vigilantes waited.

As the marchers crossed the high arch of the
bridge and descended to the side opposite
Selma, they were ordered to disperse. The
situation quickly got out of hand and volleys
of tear gas were lobbed into the crowd of
marchers. As confusion reigned, the crowd of
protesters was attacked with clubs and fled
back across the bridge in confusion. The
Sisters of Saint Joseph at Good Samaritan
Hospital and the staff of a local clinic treated
hundreds for their injuries.

"Bloody Sunday" proved to be a pivotal event
in American history. Television cameras
recorded the entire episode and viewers
nationwide soon saw images of the violence
coming into their own living rooms.

As both messages and messengers of
support poured into Selma, a breakthrough
decision came from the Federal courts. U.S.
District Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., ruled
that the protesters had a right to peacefully
assemble and march, even if their marching
limited mobility on public highways. The state
had maintained that the march would have
limited the use of U.S. Highway 80 by regular
traffic.

On March 21, 1965, two weeks to the day
after "Bloody Sunday," the march started
again. This time protected by police and
National Guard troops, an estimated 3,200
marchers from across the country once
again walked across the Edmund Pettus
Bridge on their way to Montgomery. The
group included people from all races and all
walks of life.

The full group marched for six miles to a rail
crossing where, according to previous agree-
ment, many went back to Selma to prevent
the highway system from being completely
overwhelmed.

It took four nights for the marchers to reach
Dexter Avenue in front of the Alabama State
Capitol. Advance teams positioned camps
along the way and teams of doctors and
nurses treated marchers for sprains, blisters
and other injuries resulting from the miles of
walking.
As the march reached the City of St. Jude in
Montgomery on the night of March 24, 1965, a
"Stars for Freedom" Rally was held featuring
numerous famous entertainers. The crowd
was now 25,000 strong. Among the stars
who performed or spoke were Harry
Belafonte, Joan Baez,  Tony Bennett, Leonard
Bernstein, Dick Gregory, Lena Horne, "Peter,
Paul & Mary," Shelley Winters and others.

The next day the marchers reached the state
capitol building. As the crowd overflowed
Dexter Avenue for blocks, Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr., delivered his famous "How Long,
Not Long" speech to the tens of thousands of
people. Governor Wallace did not meet with
the leaders as they had hoped, but he did
watch and listen from inside the capitol
building.

The widespread news coverage of the Selma
to Montgomery March brought about dramatic
change in American culture. Public opinion
on the matter shifted and one day after the
march ended, President Lyndon Johnson
presented a bill that would become the
historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the U.S.
Congress.

In his speech to a joint session of Congress,
President Johnson declared that the cause
of the marchers "must be our cause too."
Continuing on, he told the nation's leaders
that, "really it is all of us who must overcome
the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome."

Established by Congress and President Bill
Clinton in 1996, the Selma to Montgomery
National Historic Trail now follows U.S.
Highway 80 from Selma to Montgomery. The
developing national park area preserves the
route of the march and key sites associated
with its progress. Signs mark campsites
along the way and the stunning Lowndes
County Interpretive Center is now open. It is
the first of three National Park Service
interpretive centers planned for the park.

To learn more, please click here to visit the
official park service website.
Edmund Pettus Bridge

"Bloody Sunday"

Lowndes County Interpretive Center

Alabama State Capitol

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist
Church

Civil Rights Memorial

Selma, Alabama - Historic Sites

Montgomery, Alabama - Historic Sites
Historic Sites in Alabama

Explore other Southern Historic Sites
Pettus Bridge at Sunset
The Selma to Montgomery
March ignited a major change
in American culture and led to
the passage of the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 by the U.S.
Congress.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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