Tuesday, October 12, 2010

selma, alabama

from jackson, mississippi i drove to selma, alabama.  stayed at a super duper clean hampton inn (thank god)  where i was able to buy a dvd of a documentary on selma and its history at the front desk!  other than someone knocking on my door at 4:15 a.m. and then having trouble getting back to sleep, it was a great stay.

i got up early in the morning and started out driving the exact 54 MILE (that's right - 54 MILE) route that marchers took on the selma to montgomery voting rights march from march 21 to 25, 1965.  (the only part i couldn't follow it exactly was where the interstate came in but i got back on the route after about 1/2 mile or so.)  it was one of the most amazing experiences i have ever had.  it is absolutely extraordinary to me that this event occurred. this was taken through extremely hostile territory, and in fact the first two attempts were stymied.  the first attempt resulted in bloody sunday where marchers (who were non-violent and simply walking) were brutally attacked and tear gassed by state troopers AND local police  at the foot of the edmund pettus bridge in selma.  this is the side of the bridge the marchers walked up after walking approx. 6 blocks through selma.

the second attempt was labelled "turnaround tuesday" b/c dr. martin luther king jr. made the decision (somewhat unpopular w/other activists) to turn around at the bridge b/c after seeking court protection from law enforcement attack, the court issued an injuction stopping the march until the case could be heard.  they made a symbolic march just over the bridge to the bloody sunday site, the leaders kneeled to pray and then turned around.

success finally came on the third try after a favorable court ruling and protection.  amazingly enough, the governor of alabama, george wallace, flat out refused to provide protection for the marchers.  so president johnson nationalized almost 2,000 alabama guardsmen and also sent 2,000 more soldiers as well as fbi agents and federal marshals.  

i took photos along the route of significant places in the movement.  the following are all in selma.

this is a memorial outside the church below.

 brown chapel a.m.e. church where all three marches began.  it was the command post and spiritual heart of the local voting rights movement.  the movement was drawn to selma b/c of its dismal voter registration among african-americans.  the student nonviolent coordinating committee began to help register, and a local voters league also asked the southern christian leadership conference (king's group) to help.  the local sheriff had been attacking the sncc workers and harassing people trying to register.

 this first baptist church supported the voting rights movement before it became national news.

many of these facts come from the national park service's selma to montgomery brochure.  i was given a huge stack by a park service guy to share w/anyone who wants one.  it is a good concise history w/lots of good photos.
 side staircase of the church.

 i am pretty sure this was where dr. king was jailed.  i have to check into that b/c what i have read so far isn't totally clear.  in february (a month before the march) there were marches to this building which was city hall at the time.  people were beaten and arrested.
 the night of turnaround tuesday, this pastor (the reverend james reeb) who had marched that day was attacked brutally on this spot in selma and died from his injuries.  i read somewhere that it was believed that he and some other clergymen were walking back to where they were staying after eating dinner, and were unaware that they were passing by a noted supremacist hangout.

 a mural also marks the spot.  too bad it isn't kept up very well.  ivy and crap are growing all over it.

 downtown selma

sorry, but i find the label of "social graces" on this sign a little too ironic.  i found it precisely 1 1/2 blocks from where rev. reeb was murdered, and around 3 blocks from the edmund pettus bridge.  

downtown selma w/the bridge visible in background

 on bloody sunday side of bridge there is a memorial containing 12 stones.  one of them has this bible verse "when your children shall ask you in time to come saying what mean these 12 stones then you shall tell them how you made it over."

 here is a list of martyrs etched on the memorial -
jimmy lee jackson shot and killed by a state trooper after a night march in alabama for voting rights when he was trying to defend his mother who was being lunged at by another state trooper.  they had fled into a cafe after their non-violent march was stopped by violent state troopers attacking them.

viola liuzzo was shot and killed by klansmen who forced her car off the road and shot her in the head while she was shuttling a marcher from montgomery back to selma.  she had been doing so for 3 days after being inspired to get involved upon seeing media coverage while at her home in detroit.  she had 5 children.

rev. james reeb i mentioned above

jonathan daniels was shot and killed in another alabama town by a deputy after marching w/black teenagers who were protesting discrimination by stores.  he was a seminary student from new hampshire.

medgar evers hopefully you remember from yesterday's lesson - oops i mean blog

michael schwermer, james chaney and andrew goodman were the three civil rights workers abducted and killed by klansmen in mississippi after being involved w/freedom summer.  (which included bringing attention to voting rights abuses and starting freedom schools teaching young black children about their rights and history.)

sammy younge jr. was shot and killed by a service station worker after he had a brief verbal dispute w/him when he believed he was being directed to a blacks only bathroom in the back.


this mural is at the memorial at the bottom of the edmund pettus bridge.  which is also where the voting rights museum is.   (the only site on my list i didn't get to tour.)

bottom of the bridge - site of bloody sunday

and i am drained.
next entry:  rest of march to montgomery and sites in montgomery

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