One of the last cities to attract the attention of protesters, Selma flashed on the nation’s screens and conscience during the 1965 march to Montgomery. The searing images of protestors beaten as they crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge are some of the most notorious scenes of the era, and make the city a must-stop for any Civil Rights traveler.
The 54-mile march, organized to support voter registration, took two weeks to leave Selma due to the violence. Two days after the first attack on March 7, 1965, remembered as Bloody Sunday, King led a symbolic second attempt, stopping at the bridge to kneel in prayer. Finally on March 21, protected by national guard and federal troopers, King led the five-day march on to Montgomery. The march is reenacted every year during the first full weekend of March.
- Civil Rights travelers will want to visit Selma’s National Voting Rights Museum, which recently moved to the east side of the bridge, where the Bloody Sunday violence took place. The museum is being renovated, but includes pictures taken at the protest, and exhibits chronicling the history of race relations in Alabama. Make sure to cross the street to visit the Civil Rights Memorial Park, where monuments remember the protestors and trails lead through woods with Spanish moss. The museum is open weekdays and only by appointment on Saturdays, so plan carefully.
- A 20-stop Martin Luther King Jr. walking tour stops at the Brown Chapel AME Church, where the march was organized and began. The First Baptist Church, which was the home of Selma Campaign — organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and where King spoke several times.
- The route to Montgomery is now a National Historic Trail, signposted with markers and includes a National Park Service visitors center, located halfway between Selma and Montgomery. The Lowndes County Interpretive Center, recounts the events in grim detail, describing the deaths of several marchers, such as Detroit housewife Viola Liuzzo, killed by Ku Klux Klan members as she was driving marchers between Selma and Montgomery. The center is near the site of “Tent City,” once a temporary refuge for black sharecroppers who were kicked out of their homes when they attempted to register to vote.
Five months after the events, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the national Voting Rights Act into law.
You’ll find many major motel chains in Selma.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites A clean well-maintained hotel. Wireless Internet and complimentary breakfast.
2000 Lincoln Drive, Selma, 334/874-1000. TripAdvisor average rate: $110
Bridge Tenders House A historic B&B on the banks of the Alabama River near the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 2 Lafayette Park, Selma, 334/875-5517. Rates from: $80
A local down-home favorite. Try the biscuits and gravy, and the peach cobbler. 1114 Selma Avenue, 334/875-5933.
Steaks and European-inspired dishes in a faux English pub. Try the New York strip steak. 509 Mangum Avenue, Selma. 334/875-1390.