Today, a drive to Selma..a first visit for me, but imprinted in my mind forever as I watched on TV the March led by Martin Luther King on 21 March 1965 from Selma via Hwy 80 to the Montgomery Capitol..some 54 miles. Some 4,000 marchers led the March until the highway narrowed to two lanes. It was then restricted to 300. As the March approached the Capitol the numbers swelled to 25,000. The Right to Vote March, after enduring over a century of harassment, bloodshed and deaths eventually culminated in the passing of the Voting Rights Law signed by President Johnson on 6 August 1965, long denied under the 15th Amendment.
|Bloody Sunday Plaque|
|Voting Rights Plaque|
|Edmund Pettus Bridge|
|Photo of March|
|Signage for March|
|First Baptist Church Used at Rallying Point|
|Brown Chapel Staging Point for March|
It was a violent time, not by the Black Movement, but by the Governor Wallace, law enforcers, KKK. On Bloody Sunday, 9 March, some 600 marchers approaching the Pettus Bridge saw a sea of blue-Alabama State Troopers blocking Hwy 80. They were given 2 minutes to return to their homes and churches. When they did ot move, the troopers began attacking them as they did not resist. On March 9, Unitarian Minister James Reeb , who was white, was attacked and later died. His assailants were acquitted. An unfortunate and misguided sign of the times. A week later, President Johnson called on Congress to pass a voting rights bill and the injunction against the march was lifted; however, marchers in Montgomery were brutally beaten as Governor Wallace refused to abide by the request.
After the march, Viola Liuzzo who was carrying marchers back to Selma was brutally shot by the KKK. Laws cannot change or end bigotry. Jonathon Daniels, an Episcopal minister who was helping desegregation efforts in Haynesville AL was shot and killed. Lowndes County landowers evicted tenants who registered to vote. In the end by 1966, the number of registered African Americans in Alabama was four times that in 1960.
When visiting Selma, suggest you stop at the NPS Interpretive Center for the display of the March and history and then do a walking tour of the town.
|Water Street Marker|
Our next was the Old Depot Museum. This was originally a L&N railroad station built in 1891 it contains treasures of the heritage of Selma. It is one of twelve depots still standing in Southeast. The artifacts in the museum contain more than 200 years of life in Selma.
Five Indian tribes thrived in the area due to the rich river and stream systems. The Confederate Naval Ordnance Works were located on the site of the Depot. The complex produced half of all munitions used by the Confederacy. There are exhibits of a sharecroppers life, the more affluent life of Selma and images of the March. The museum is a work in progress and donations of items are abundant and yet to be displayed.
When we walked to the Vaughn-Smitherman Home, we were disappointed to learn it was closed due to an event.The home was used as a Confederate Hospital and has the Lewis collection of Civil War artifacts. It was built in 1847 by the Masons as a boys and girls school. The building was used as a hospital to treat Confederate Soldiers. There is speculation that a tunnel ran beneath the building to the Alabama River to transport wounded soldiers from the battlefield to the hospital as well as smuggle supplies. We hope to return before we depart.
|Vaughan Smitherman Museum Plaque|
|Side Porch Menu|
|Plaque for St james Hotel|
|St James Hotel|
We then drove to Old Cahawba ruins near Oroville. Cahawba was once the Capital city of Alabama from 1820-1826 and a site for the captured Union Soldiers. The town was carved out of a wilderness and built on the remains of a ghost town, a 16th century Indian Village. It grew into a wealthy antebellum river town. After the war it became a refuge for emancipated slaves. Suddenly it disappeared and nothing remains. Today it is an important archaeological site. Nothing remains of the homes and buildings.
|Visitor Center for Cahawba|
|Signage of Years Past|
|Site of theUnion Prison|
After searching for more Historic Markers enroute home, we finally returned at 700PM. .a very long day, but well worth it. John got lots of good info for his site.