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.
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail - Alabama
|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"
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
Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama
Selma to Montgomery March
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
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 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. Confusion and violence reigned
as the crowd of protesters was attacked with
clubs. People 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 had
recorded the scene 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
On March 21, 1965, two weeks to the day
after "Bloody Sunday," the march started
again. Protected by police and National
Guard troops, an estimated 3,200 marchers
from across the country walked across the
Edmund Pettus Bridge and started their
march to Montgomery. People of all races
and from all walks of life took part.
The full group marched for six miles to a rail
crossing where, as previously agreed, 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 set up camps along
the way and teams of doctors and nurses
treated marchers for sprains, blisters and
other injuries resulting from the miles of
It was a landmark moment in U.S. history that
brought the eyes of the world to a stretch of
highway connecting the cities of Selma and
The march reached the City of St. Jude in
Montgomery on the night of March 24, 1965,
where a "Stars for Freedom" Rally was held.
A crowd of 25,000 listened to an A-list of
stars including Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez,
Tony Bennett, Leonard Bernstein, Dick
Gregory, Lena Horne, "Peter, Paul & Mary,"
Shelley Winters and others.
The marchers reached the state capitol
building on March 25, 1965. The crowd
overflowed Dexter Avenue for blocks as 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,
although watched and listened 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.
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 Selma and Lowndes Interpretive
Centers are now open. They are the first two
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 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
|Copyright 2011 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 16, 2015