Emotion stirred in my soul as we drove the Selma to Montgomery March Byway in Alabama. Unlike the scenic byways we’re accustomed to, this byway awakened memories of a raw and brutal time in our country’s history. On March 7, 1965, 600 African Americans and white supporters set out from Selma on a 54-mile march to the Capitol steps in Montgomery. Their mission? To demand enforcement of their voting rights.
As the road leaves Selma, it crosses the Alabama River via the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The bridge arches in the middle, blocking the view ahead. On that fateful day, state troopers waited on the other side, determined to stop the marchers. Violence erupted into what is now called Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.
We walked partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, adding our footfalls to the metal’s memory. I ran my fingertips across the truss’s cold steel to connect with the energy of the brave individuals who risked their well-being – even their lives — to stand for human rights.
One of the National Voting Rights Museum’s many impressive exhibits is the display of marchers’ footprints, preserved in plaster. The museum continues its endeavor to collect footprints to honor all the unsung heroes who participated. The following footage captures imagery of the marchers’ feet, their shoes revealing all walks of life.
Under First Amendment protection, the third attempt to march to the Capitol was successful. Marchers left Selma on March 21, 1965. Campgrounds were set up along the route for marchers to rest at night. Today, roadside markers show their location.
Four days later and 25,000 strong, they arrived in Montgomery on March 25, 1965. From the steps of the Capitol, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the speech, “How Long, Not long.”
This weekend and next week (March 4 – 13, 2010), the Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2010 commemorates the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. Events include symposiums, recreation, concerts, parades, breakfasts and church services with Movement speakers. The Bridge Crossing Re-Enactment takes place on Sunday, March 7, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
The March Re-enactment from Selma to Montgomery starts on Monday, March 8. The Jubilee concludes with the Montgomery Re-Enactment Rally, Saturday, March 13, 12 – 1 p.m., at the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama.
If we were still in Alabama, we would attend the Jubilee to learn more about American civil rights, then and now – 45 years later.