How to Use
Locating the Site
Map 1: Route of the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March .(National Park Service)
Montgomery and Selma were located in the Alabama Black Belt. According to Booker T. Washington, writing in his 1901 autobiography,
So far as I can learn, the term [Black Belt] was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the colour of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later . . . the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense—that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white.3
Questions for Map 1
1. Look carefully at this map. Where did the march route begin? Where did it end? Use the map scale to estimate the distance between the two places. If average walking speed is 3 miles per hour, how long would it take to walk that distance? Use a classroom map of the United States to locate this area.
2. In 1965, African Americans constituted about half of the population in Selma and Montgomery; in rural areas of the state 80-90 percent of the population was black. What effect, if any, do you think this fact would have had on white reactions to black attempts to gain the vote in those counties?
3. Find Dallas, Lowndes, and Montgomery counties. Selma is located in Dallas County; Montgomery, the State capital, is in Montgomery County. Only 2 percent of eligible African Americans in Dallas County were registered to vote in 1965, and there were no registered black voters in Lowndes County. How do you think a successful voting rights campaign might affect this part of the Black Belt?
4. Locate the Alabama River. Selma was a wealthy city before the Civil War, shipping large quantities of Black Belt cotton down the river. By the mid-20th century, the boll-weevil had decimated the cotton trade and Selma was in decline. How do you think that fact might have affected white attitudes towards voting rights for African Americans?
3Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery; An Autobiography, 1901 (reprint, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1965), 68.
* The image on this screen has a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Map 1, but be aware that the file may take as much as 25 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.